Debbie Tucker Green’s emotionally charged one-woman show Random came to Leeds Playhouse last week, over a decade after its first publication. Random is a response to the anxieties of a nation where mundane human experience is under threat by knife crime. The performance sees ordinary become extraordinary and commonplace become catastrophic as the day demises into horror, revealing the unimaginable grief of losing a family member to knife crime. Since 2011, the knife crime murder rate has risen by 16%; the play sharply explores the impact of this senseless act amongst the young black community.
As the story unfolds from 7.37am, audiences are carried through the routine hours of the day with Mum, Dad, Brother and Sister. We watch Mum complain about the “black bits” in the porridge, Sister mock her office work colleagues, and Brother shut himself in the corner shop. The script is no easy feat for any actor, with all four characters being played by the same female, yet Kiza Dean put on a movingly raw 45-minute spectacle. Despite not even lasting an hour, Dean ensures audiences are captivated by the humour and likeability of each character and leaves us clinging on for answers once the lights go down.
Max Johnson’s set beautifully incorporates hundreds of chairs stacked on top of each other, as if piled into a store room and not intended to be on display. The precarious placement of each gives the illusion that they could topple over at any given movement, marring the tension on stage and the play’s air of danger. The placement of the chairs at the back of the stage allows Dean to morph seamlessly in her transitions between Mum, Dad, Brother and Sister at unexpected and striking moments. Her gesturing and change of voice is flawless throughout the performance; there are moments where the rapid transitions happen before you even have a chance to notice them.
We never find out who is responsible for the murder of Brother, and perhaps we are not meant to. Instead, Dean voices the people we don’t hear from in the media and news – the silent, grieving family members. We are not offered any solutions; only left to imagine how we might feel should we experience the same horrific tragedy.
Image Courtesy of Leeds Playhouse