JITNEY
Royal National Theatre (Lyttelton), London SE1
Opened 15 October, 2001

**** Beautifully written and observed black American drama

August Wilson has done more than any contemporary playwright to articulate the black American experience in the 20th century.

His project is to write one play set in each decade of the last century. In this case the setting is Pittsburgh in 1977, in the office of a small-time cab (or "jitney") company. There are tensions among the drivers, between one of their number and his girlfriend, a second and his son newly released from prison after serving twenty years for murder, and between a third driver and the bottle, and over everything hangs the threat of the building being marked for demolition.

In some productions I find it very difficult to make notes. These are evenings when everything is quietly, unobtrusively right, and the story and performances are far more compelling than a sense of being at work. This often happens with a particular kind of American show, where a fluidity of performance and an attention to detail helps create a strong dramatic and emotional current. Marion McClinton's production which visits the National from off-Broadway is a case in point: everything meshes smoothly and unostentatiously, and just carries you along. The single, minor, awkwardness is an over-shapely ending, betraying that Wilson drafted the play some 20 years ago when still learning his craft.

Written for divento.com

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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