Reviewed by Jan Mellor
I have never been to the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester before – it really is a sight to behold with its enormous marble pillars and domed ceilings. The diversity of this building was that as well as the main theatre, suspending in the centre of the main hall, there was an intimate theatre at the back where the show I was to see was being performed. The room, The Studio, was as ‘cosy’ as any theatre room could be with a shallow stage and 4 rows of small chairs, which along with the stunning African woman who stood silent on the stage as we entered, had us feeling intrigued from the onset.
The story of three men and their monthly amble through the wild countryside of Yorkshire, while rediscovering their past and analysing their present, was very heart-warming and each of the initial three cast members; Thomas, the eldest of the three who, at his late stage in life was wondering the worth of carrying on, Matthew, the harassed, hen-pecked conscientious worrier who failed to ‘switch off’ from his day to day chains and Richard, the optimistic, enigmatic one, a friend to all but a vulnerable and troubled soul, invited us into a world of friendship and compassion. The walk brings the men soul-searching conversations, troubled realities and an incredible bond between the very different characters. They struggle with their lack of acceptance, the consistent prejudice and the rejection that they continue to face in a culturally diverse Britain and share tales of discrimination and exclusion that they all face. Introduce the beautiful and bullied Ayesha into the mix and the story takes on a deeper dimension.
The play was a sincere and honest reflection of the racism that still exists, the impact this has on people and how believing in oneself is the only way to tackle people’s barren and sometimes tortured existence. The four cast were amazing; Tyrone Huggins as Thomas, you pitied his character and related with his anguish. Trevor Laird as Matthew, you empathised with his constant struggle to leave his work and family commitments alone with a lack to be mindful of the present. Tonderai Munyevu as Richard, you understood his desire to please others whilst inside he yearned to be loved and accepted himself and finally Dorcas Sebuyange as Ayeesha, the spunky young African girl with a heart bursting with passion and love but a raging anger and frustration brought upon her by degrading racism.
This play was a joy. It portrayed the topic of racism in a deep and meaningful way without being political or sentimental. Well worth seeing and a privilege to be part of their journey.
Tickets cost from £11 to £13.
Black Men Walking is at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester from 18 January to 3 February 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit www.royalexchange.co.uk or call the box office on 0161 833 9833.
Royal Exchange Theatre, St Ann’s Square, Manchester, M2 7DH | 0161 833 9833