Gus, a white, gay artist, believes he is being discriminated against when his work is rejected by a prestigious gallery, because he is just another ‘white dude’. He then proceeds to hire Vanessa, a black actress, to pose as the artist of his work, in an attempt to undermine the system and expose the curator as discriminatory. Vanessa becomes Balkonae Townsend, a caricature of what white America sees as the typical African-American woman.
The play is a comment on middle-class white Americans: the kind of people who say they aren’t racist because they have a ‘black friend’. This is encapsulated in the scene where the curator, Jane, explains how she understands Balkonae’s art, because she is ‘an eighth Native-American’.
The interactions between Vanessa and Gus really bring to light the poignant ideas and themes that run throughout the play. Gus gives a monologue about marginalisation of the white man and then proceeds to profess the idea of a black woman inside of every gay man just waiting to burst out, which is brought to life in other scenes as Diana Ross, patron saint of gay men. Not only does this diminish Vanessa’s existence, but it also shows the white man’s misunderstanding of marginalisation and his desire to be part of it.
The EUTC’s production is slick and well-directed, with a talented cast who use the space in an innovative way. St Cecilia’s Hall was a great venue for such a play, as it easily became an artist’s space. Not only did it feel like an art gallery from the minimalist set, but with the traverse stage, the audience became observers of the art.
However, the ending left something to be desired. The sudden change from hilarity to complete absurdism set it back and was difficult to understand. It was an attempt to create something shocking, but in my opinion it did not go about it in the right way, as it threw off the previous atmosphere completely.
WHITE is a play that discusses the world today – it couldn’t be more on the pulse of our current climate. It is a well written piece, that through thoughtful direction became the incredible performance that I was lucky enough to witness. This is a story that everyone should hear, because maybe then people would stand up and make a difference.
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