Joe Turner’s Come And Gone – Young Vic

Ok, so I’ve long waited for a theatre to be brave enough to stage the whole August Wilson play cycle, so was thankful that the Young Vic have staged one of the ten plays.

Joe Turner’s Come And Gone, the second of his decade-by-decade plays looking at black American life, is set in a 1911 boarding house in Pittsburgh. Life in Pittsburgh is tough but in Seth and Bertha Holly’s guesthouse lodgers can find some respite for two dollars a week.

Among the guests are Herald Lumas and his daughter Zonia, searching for their wife and mother. Herald has just been freed after seven years in Joe Turner’s slave gang and is desperate to find the wife he left behind.

It is and emotional rollercoaster of a journey and one that Wilson’s script fills with beautiful and powerful imagery; imagery reinforced by Patrick Burnier’s impressive earth clad set (and auditorium) and Mike Gunning’s simple but evocative lighting.

David Lan’s decision to stage the show in the round works to draw the audience into the heart of the action, although blocking could be improved for some pivotal scenes.

Aside from Wilson’s rich script the joy of this production is its first rate cast. Adjoa Andoh and Danni Sapani as the Holly’s give the piece heart but the highlight of the evening is Delroy Lindo, who continues his long association with the play and commands the stage in every scene. This is a true ensemble piece however and all the cast deliver first-class performances.

Joe Turner may be heavy going in places but it is worth persevering with for one of the classics of American Theatre. The ecstatic audience reaction at the Yong Vic shows that although about life nearly 100 years ago, Joe Turner still resonates with a modern audience.

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