Quaker Meeting House (Venue 40)
3 stars ***
THE NEW SALISBURY UNIVERSITY PLAYERS have come all the way from Maryland to present this thoughtful one-hour drama on the Fringe; and although it’s not a new work, its theme remains both significant and timely. First written 20 years ago, Jeff Stetson’s play is set the mid-1960’s, and imagines a meeting which never actually took place, between the famously non-violent civil rights leader Martin Luther King, and the more militant black Muslim campaigner, Malcolm X.
In an anonymous hotel room, the two circle and spar with one another, under the scowling gaze of Malcolm X’s sceptical minder. Sometimes, their verbal dispute reaches a climax in a sudden bout of physical arm-wrestling, as they strive for dominance in the leadership of black America; yet at other times, they seem bound together by a profound sense of brotherhood, despite their differences, and their simmering mutual accusations of treachery.
The pace of Tom Anderson’s production in stately, and the whole experience tends to lack dramatic tension; there is nothing specific at stake in the conversation, despite its fascinating subject. It’s impressive, though, to see two young black actors – Terron T. Quailes and Cedric X Hardnett – bringing such a careful and meticulous intensity to their portrayal of these two great figures in recent US history. And for those with an interest in the politics of the American century through which we have just lived, this show offers a worthwhile and thought-provoking experience.
Until 28 August