Human Nurture

19/03/22

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

It’s Harry (Lucas Button)’s eighteenth birthday and, when his old friend ‘Roger’ (Justice Ritchie) turns up out of the blue, bringing him a Colin the Caterpillar cake and a selection of shared memories, he’s initially delighted. The two of them recall their days in the care system together: the adventures they had, the everyday trials they faced. 

But now things have changed somewhat. Harry is still struggling to make his way in the world, while Roger, who prefers now to answer to Runaku – his real name; the name his parents gave him – is about to set off for university and exciting new horizons. 

But before he leaves, he has some issues that need to be addressed. 

Harry has been pretty vocal on social media lately and many of his views are racially insensitive, to say the least. Runaku wants him to face up to his duplicity but, as Harry protests, how can he be a racist when his best friend is black?

Ryan Calais Cameron’s punchy play handles a complex subject with surefooted skill and nails the central flaw that lies at the heart of Harry’s logic. We soon learn that Runaku has been marginalised all through their years together, and that Harry needs to face up to something he’s avoided since the beginning of their friendship.

Both Button and Ritchie attack their roles with vigour and the physicality of their performances prevents this two-hander from ever becoming static. Movement director Yami Löfvenberg and Rob Watt’s pacy direction have them hurling themselves around the stage, slipping expertly through a whole range of emotions from cheery bonhomie to outright anger. I also enjoy the live music from musician Neeta Saarl and the way she interacts with the performers – though the lengthy electronic overture she performs at the beginning feels suspiciously like an attempt to pad out the play’s brisk running time.

But this is thought-provoking stuff, that isn’t afraid to tackle its sensitive material with refreshing honesty.

4 stars

Philip Caveney

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