By Jay Williams
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Story of race in the US leaves audience floundering

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Issue 2643
Fisayo Akinade
Fisayo Akinade

Race and class in Trump’s America form the spine of this well-directed play.

There are strong performances throughout, especially from Fisayo Akinade who plays Mark, the pivotal role.

The title could be a reference to Shakespeare’s The Tempest. But it’s hard to be sure, and that leaves a sense of frustration.

There is obvious symbolism, clunky metaphors and jarring puns.

Mark, although born in Africa, was adopted as a baby and grew up in an entirely white environment.

He has one foot in each of black and white America and is conflicted about his identity.

It is during Mark’s speeches that Washburn’s writing is at its best.


The same black actor who plays Mark also plays George W Bush.

This may be supposed to be edgy, but it comes across as silly.

At the end of the first half Bush and Trump fight. Trump the usurper is the victor and banishes a Republican dynasty.

The latter part of the play is completely different to the rest.

There are no more stagey performances or internal discussions about the nature of drama. Trump appears as leader of a cult. The epaulettes of his cloak form the white power hand symbol.

Sound design and a rotating stage are used effectively here and it is a real spectacle.

At the end of the play the two narratives are cleverly brought together as we realise that all the characters are in the imagination of just one.

Despite moments like this, Shipwrecks’ dialogue still sounds like a transcript from a Democrat’s dinner party.


Until 30 March at the Almeida Theatre, London

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