EmptyNational Theatre, London
Through Jan. 10
The conflict between blacks of direct African descent and their Caribbean cousins is at the heart of British playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah's third play, "Statement of Regret." While clearly a source of considerable anguish for those concerned, the play fails to register its significance because of stilted dialogue and a focus on the familial failings of the central character.
Don Warrington plays Kwaku Mackenzie, a West Indian leader of a political think tank in London, which he runs like a business while lobbying the government to address black issues. A minister of race has just been appointed in Britain, but Kwaku's organization is failing to register on the political radar.
Distraught after the death of his father and plagued by guilt over an illegitimate son, Kwaku seeks to change the direction of his lobbying campaign in a dramatic and controversial fashion. He declares that reparations for slavery should go only to Africans in the Caribbean.
The members of his lobbying institute include loyal second-in-command Michael Akinbola (Colin McFarlane), brittle gay intellectual Idrissa Adebayo (Chu Omambala) and bright young assistant Issimama Banjoko (Angel Coulby), whose reaction is more tolerant than would be expected.
Objecting furiously is Kwaku's wife, Lola (Ellen Thomas), but that is largely because her husband has recently hired his mistress' son, Adrian (Clifford Samuel), as an intern. That situation also dismays his first son, Junior (Javone Prince), but the potentially volatile circumstances are not developed.
The debate comes to focus on Kwaku's personal situation, which is not helped by an escalating intake of alcohol. When he makes his campaign public, he is almost out of hand, making dire slurs against African blacks and Jews.
The acting is fine, but the dialogue falls into the trap of being statements of rhetoric without offering much illumination into the serious matters at hand.
STATEMENT OF REGRET
Presented by the National Theatre
Playwright: Kwame Kwei-Armah
Director: Jeremy Herrin
Set designer: Mike Britton
Lighting designer: Natasha Chivers
Music: Soweto Kinch
Sound designer: Yvonne Gilbert
Kwaku Mackenzie: Don Warrington
Michael Akinbola: Colin McFarlane
Idrissa Adebayo: Chu Omambala
Issimama Banjoko: Angel Coulby
Lola Mackenzie: Ellen Thomas
Kwaku Mackenzie Jr.: Javone Prince
Val: Trevor Laird
Adrian Mackenzie: Clifford Samuel
Soby: Oscar James