Traverse Theatre – until 25 August
Reviewed by Emma Sibbald
Agonisingly relevant, Pulitzer Prize finalist Dael Orlandersmith’s ‘Until the Flood’ takes on the destructive nature of race relations in the USA today.
Poised in front of a memorial to the black teenager, Michael Brown, the main impetus for the play, we watch a parade of speakers provide their views. Each is carefully and wonderfully rendered by Orlandersmith; she performs as a horrified young black man, fearing a similar fate, a tremulous white woman, unable to understand the difficulties of reconciliation, a hissing, raging, racist. Her impressions are suggestions rather than caricatures, the voices flow through her without altering her posture or gait. Throughout this procession, Orlandersmith asks us to observe the legacy of such violence that has played out again and again.
‘Until the Flood’ is not interested in apathy, but rather it provides sensitive understanding of the warring ideas and histories that underpin debates around race and gun violence in the States today. There is rage in some of Orlandersmith’s characterisations, but it is tempered by a deep, moving compassion – change is desperately needed but seems absent from a bleak, Trump-owned horizon; yet underneath the intricate political knots lie many types of human.
The play is based upon interviews Orlandersmith conducted in St Louis after the shooting of Michael Brown, by white policeman Darren Wilson. The situation is murky. Like in many similar tragedies, including the El Paso and Dayton, Ohio shootings over the weekend, politics and opinion cloud the facts. Two things are known for certain; Michael Brown was unarmed, and Darren Wilson was not indicted for his role in Brown’s death. The event is motivational but not the subject. Rather, Orlandersmith asks, what do we do with the fallout?
‘Until the Flood’ reminds us that the avoidance of justice for Michael Brown, and individuals like him, takes a moral toll on all citizens, not just those directly affected by the tragedy. Orlandersmith’s play stands, with striking grace, to remind us all that healing begins with authentic change