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Review: A Kind Of People

Review: A Kind Of People

Review: A Kind Of People cover photo on Stagedoor
“Tonight I’m nobody’s manager. I’m just Victoria.”

But when Victoria (Amy Morgan) tags along uninvited to a family party in the home of Gary (Richie Campbell), one of the electrical engineers she manages, it turns out that the power structures that operate in the work-place and racial bias spill out along with the prosecco. Victoria is white and Gary is black and looking for promotion. Victoria’s drunken demands to be taught to twerk “like the black girls do,” has ramifications in Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s A Kind of People (Royal Court).

Nobody, not least Victoria, is just themselves. In Bhatti’s engaging, unsentimental play they are also a product of their experience of the world and its pressing structures, the latter perhaps rather too obviously articulated in Anna Fleischle’s monumental design.

Photos by Manuel Harlan.

While from the outside Gary, his straight-talking sister Karen (Petra Letang, hilarious), his white wife Nicky (Claire-Louise Cordwell), his best friend Mark (Thomas Coombes) and their Asian friends Mo (Asif Khan) and Anjum (Manjinder Virk) look like a community, it is a community subject to the pressures of race, religion, class and opportunity. And straightforward self-interest. Everyone is out for themselves and trying to get what they want. A Kind of People might be seen as cynical about human nature if it didn’t treat its flawed fragile characters with such tender compassion.

At the heart of the web is Gary and Nicky, once the local comp’s golden couple. But now they are approaching 40 still living on the local council estate. Nicky wants more, not so much for herself but for their three children. The youngest is struggling and Nicky knows there will be no social housing for her kids, and she cannot protect them forever from an unkind world.

Petra Letang and Claire-Louise Cordwell.

So, Gary’s promotion is important, and as the group prepare for the school fair the other issue in the air is tutoring for the 11 plus exam that the Gary and Nicky’s bright oldest son is taking alongside Mo and Anjum’s eldest. Anjum says that “education is a weapon,” and she is running a military campaign to ensure her son gets the best. Can Nicky keep up?

A Kind of People is hardly radical in terms of form, but it is richly rewarding in the delicacy with which it develops characters, and makes your sympathies subtly shift and lurch, often with just a throwaway line. Everyone is dissected; nobody is judged. Not even the appalling Victoria. Michael Buffong’s production keeps the drama full throttle but still pays attention to the fragile ties that bind and which are so easily severed. By the time we got to the Plenty-style coda my eyes were wet.

A Kind of People runs at the Royal Court until Sat 18 Jan.

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Lyn Gardner

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