Arriving early last Friday, I had the opportunity the absorb the atmosphere of the Richmond Community Theatre in Rockingham. The small auditorium has the intimacy of a warm bath.
My solitude was pleasantly interrupted by Shelly Walker, director of this evening’s play, “Fences” (a drama by August Wilson playing through May 24.
I asked what had inspired her to direct this work, and she reiterated what she had written in her director’s notes: “‘Fences’ is an amazing piece of dramatic literature, and I am honored to be given the opportunity to direct this play.”
Before the play, began Shelly felt it necessary to warn the audience of the plays content and the use of the “N-word.” Interestingly, coming from an all-African-American cast, the N-word didn’t seem to bear the same relevance as it would coming from elsewhere, One could argue that when political correctness is deemed necessary, political correctness is a form of prejudice in its own right.
Bruce Stanback — playing the lead role of the neurotic Troy Maxson — was superb. The portrait of a man deeply affected by what life (God) had given him, corrupted and bigoted, this character could have been my next-door neighbor. (In the U.K., that is).
Fencing in his yard has nothing to do with protecting his family and more to do with the control that inevitably destroys his relationship with his wife and leads to his own demise.
Anitra Ingram plays Rose Maxson, Troy’s longsuffering wife; the highlight of her performance is when Troy confesses to his wife of having an affair and fathering a child — a moment of pure theatrical delight.
I met Anitra and her boyfriend, Robert, in Henry’s Cafe the following morning and I asked her of her ambitions.
“I would love to be on Broadway,” she said. “TV is OK, but the stage has a special kind of magic for me.”
When you consider that some members of the cast are acting on stage for the first time, it was a brilliant performance by all concerned and beautifully directed by Shelly Walker.
I will leave the last word to her: “It doesn’t usually happen this way; actually it shouldn’t be directed this way — a white woman leading an all-black cast of actors.”
Robert Harris is an Englishman who is relocating to Rockingham. He lives in Steeton, West Yorkshire.