Fences - Theatre review by Pamela Jikiemi

It is well documented that Fidel Castro was an impressive baseball pitcher, who participated in a number of exhibition games. He was accomplished enough to warrant selection to a major league team, but, there is no actual record that the rumoured try-out for the New York Yankees ever took place.

Perhaps the same could be said of Troy Maxson (Lenny Henry), a man who never lets the truth get in the way of a good story and who is the central character in Fences, which transfers to the West End from June 17th 2013.

Troy is an undereducated garbage collector married to a loving yet resigned woman, Rose (Tanya Moodie). They have a son, Cory (Ashley Zhangazha) who has the chance of a college education through realising his own sporting ambitions. Troy and his family live in a simple house purchased with his brother Gabriel’s (Terence Maynard) war injury compensation money.

Troy also has a son, Lyons (Peter Bankole) from a previous consensual relationship who is a talented musician whose prestigious engagements Troy refuses to see. Troy is a man out of step with time, his life and his family. His oldest friend Bono - played here with avuncular charm and a heart breaking depth of loyalty, by Colin McFarlane - is the only person, apart from Gabriel, who knew him when he was young, and is willing to point out his excesses and to attempt to ameliorate the potential damage they could cause if not kept in check. This they both do, eventually at great personal cost to themselves.

The stage set of the Maxson family house is a metaphor for the relationships that reside within it’s partially fenced environs; stark, overshadowed and eerily fragile, promising more than it delivers.

Troy ultimately proves to be (in the words of Hilary Clinton), ‘a hard dog to keep on the porch’. The addition of his alienation, bitterness and lack of fulfilment gradually oozed out over the course of two hours irretrievably soiling everything they come into contact with.

The accents lacked clarity and slid in the general American direction. Tightening this may have provided a clearer sense of place and time.

Lenny Henry delivers a didactic, deeply injured Troy who ‘didn’t know he could do any better’. His ambitions were thwarted by the colour of his skin and his own expectations.

Paulette Randall’s measured direction reflects the under explored theme of the shackles that discrimination creates within a community and in a person and how they can be passed on like a genetic mutation to subsequent generations. Wilson’s play enables the audience to see how black America struggles with the complexities of its past and its determination have more than a ‘cotton pickin’ hand in America’s future.

(c)Pamela Jikiemi 2013

Reviewed Saturday 9th March 2013 Richmond

‘Fences’ continues touring until 13th April at the following venues:

Mon, 18th March 2013 to Sat, 23rd March 2013
Milton Keynes Theatre, Milton Keynes
Mon, 25th March 2013 to Sat, 30th March 2013
The Playhouse, Oxford
Mon, 25th March 2013 to Sat, 30th March 2013
Burton Taylor Theatre, Oxford
Mon, 8th April 2013 to Sat, 13th April 2013
Malvern Theatres, Malvern

Fences transfers to the West End on June 17th 2013

Theatre Royal Bath Production of “Fences”

Cast In order of appearance:
Troy: Lenny Henry
Jim Bono: Colin McFarlane
Rose : Tanya Moodie
Lyons: Peter Bankole´
Gabriel: Terence Maynard
Cory: Ashley Zhangazha
Raynell: Crystal Mills
Ella Odedina
Tranae Sinclair

Director: Paulette Randall
Designer: Libby Watson
Lighting Designer: Johanna Town
Sound Designer: Al Ashford
Musical Director: Delroy Murray
Assistant Director: Ben Bennett
Choreographer: ‘H’ Patten
Fight Director: Bret Yount
Voice and Dialect Coach: Claudette Williams
Casting Director: Briony Barnett
Production Manager: Mark Carey
Costume Supervisor : Cathy Hill
Props Supervisor: Jemma Gardner
Children’s Administrator: Jo Hawes
Production Electrician and
Tour Re-lights: Stu Meech

Company Stage Manager: Simon Bannister
Deputy Stage Manager: Claire Henders
Assistant Stage Manager: Junior Laniyan
Wardrobe & Wigs Mistress: Lisa Brindley
Chaperones: Mavis Gaffney
Ruth Cottle
Lynda Elvin
Tour Marketing & Publicity: Jane Morgan Associates
Production Photography: Nobby Clark


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