Thursday, 11 October 2007

Emergence See - Riverside Studios

Emergence See by Daniel Beaty
Riverside Studios 11th Oct - 2nd Nov
Reviewed by Tom Ryan

As we mark both the 200th anniversary of Britain’s abolition of the slave trade and October’s annual Black History Month, it would be hard to find a more fitting time for Daniel Beaty’s new play Emergence-See! to make its London debut at the Riverside Studios.

But timely as it may be, would this one-man exploration of what it means to be free make for an enjoyable evening at the theatre? The answer is a resounding yes, as I was transfixed for the near-90 minute duration of the play, as Beaty morphs into over 40 diverse characters in modern day New York linked by the sudden appearance of a slave ship on the Hudson River next to the Statue of Liberty.

Responses to this extraordinary event range from the naturally stunned to those black Americans too busy dealing with their own metaphorical slave ships in their day-to-day lives. At no point did I feel I was being preached at, with a wide range of opinions presented by a wide array of characters, all performed beautifully by Beaty, ranging from a small boy to a septuagenarian grandmother, via a TV host and a transsexual street worker. But at the same time the story focuses on one family, two brothers and their Shakespearean scholar father who, having responded years earlier to his wife’s ghetto murder by renouncing his black history, finds himself drawn to the ship.

Beaty moves easily between pathos and some very funny moments, without ever feeling contrived. In addition to his acting and writing his poetry skills and impressive singing voice are also on show here. But it’s no ego trip – it is a testament to his charisma that alone on a sparse stage he holds the attention of the audience throughout. Entertaining and informative, fresh from successful runs off-Broadway and at the Edinburgh Festival, Emergence-See! is well worth seeing.

Emeregnce See runs at The Riverside Studios until 2nd November for more information visit
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