THEATRE REVIEW: ‘Statement of Regret’ at the National Theatre

Statement of Regret x650By Ray Bennett

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.

Kwaku’s wife, Lola (Ellen Thomas) objects fiercely but that is largely because her husband recently has 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 and it does not offer much illumination into the serious matters at hand.

Venue: National Theatre, runs through Jan. 10; Cast: Don Warrington; Colin McFarlane; Chu Omambala; Angel Coulby; Ellen Thomas; Javone Prince; Trevor Laird; Clifford Samuel; Oscar James; Playwright: Kwame Kwei-Armah; Director: Jeremy Herrin; Set designer: Mike Britton; Lighting designer: Natasha Chivers; Music: Soweto Kinch; Sound designer: Yvonne Gilbert; Presented by the National Theatre.

This review appeared in The Hollywood Reporter

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