Leeds Playhouse – until 6 November 2021
Reviewed by Dawn Smallwood
August Wilson’s Jitney, in co-production with the Leeds Playhouse and Headlong Co-production, is currently being staged at the Playhouse. Directed by Tinuke Craig, this production explores community and how members of a community can connect despite facing marginalisation and adversity and circumstances beyond their control.
It is set in the 1970s and it tells the story of nine individuals who are striving to make the best of their situations despite hardships, racism, segregation and the emotional impacts that these things bring in their lives including family and community. The men, known as Jitneys, work for an unlicensed car company in a disused building in a Pittsburg suburb that is destined to be demolished.
The narrative between the nine men excellently captivates one from beginning to end and one is immediately drawn to the men’s inner thoughts and outer actions to how they look at their lives secularly, personally, emotionally and spiritually in their individual circumstances. There is a certainly a lot to be drawn from those conversations and offers one an opportunity to resee their lives in different perspectives.
First class portrayals all round come from Andrew French (Becker, the owner of the car service) and Leemore Marrett Jr (Booster, Becker’s estranged son). They are supported by Geoff Aymer (Doub), C J Beckford (Youngblood) and Leanne Henlon (Youngblood’s partner, Rena), Solomon Israel (Shealy) and Dayo Koleosho (Philmore), Tony Marshall (the alcohol dependent Fielding) and Sule Rumi (characteristic Turnbo). Each of the characters share complexities, experiences and stories in exchange for solidarity, support and hope.
The shared stories are heard in the car service’s common room which is staged with outer video visuals depicting Pittsburg’s suburb they live in with the city’s geographical and societal references to the story’s era. The era’s ambience and atmosphere is effectively captivated and created by the production’s creative team of Alex Lowde, Elliott Griggs, Max Perryment, Ravi Deepres and Sarita Piotrowsk.
Jitney is a production for everyone, everywhere – it resonates a lot of the issues many experiences today and how reconnection and support from individuals and community can make one resilient and reflective in the climates many live in. An excellent production from beginning to end not to be missed!