Sucker Punch by Roy Williams
Sucker Punch, by Roy Williams, is a play about boxing and the black experience in 1980s Britain. Featuring four black characters and three white characters, the play centers around Leon Davidson, a black British boxing champion, and Troy Augustus, a black American powerhouse. They both grew up in the same boxing gym, trying to gain the favoritism of their white trainer, Charlie Maggs. Boxing is the one thing that helps these two boys face up to who they are. Troy ends up rebelling and gets kicked out of the gym by Charlie. He moves to the United States, where he gains a new boxing reputation. Leon begins to sleep with Charlie’s daughter and is forced to pick between training at the gym or Charlie’s daughter. He chooses training and tries to become a part of the white community. Troy eventually returns with a new manager and a fake American accent. Troy and Leon are forced to fight once again. This play shows a lot of black characters being forced to blend in with white characters and learning how to act white instead of how they were born.
trade by debbie tucker green
trade by debbie tucker green features three black women who begin the play as three local women but as needed transform into the “Regular Tourist”, an older white woman, and the “Novel Tourist”, a younger white woman. The characters trade off between the personality they are portraying throughout the show which is likely designed to leave the viewer confused over the ideas of the differences between being a local and being a visitor. This theme is also what the play focuses on, as the women dispute with one another about their different opinions on what it means to be “there”(where the tourists are visiting and, the Local’s home) and “here” (elsewhere, the tourist home) and how their different experiences with this place signify who they are and the relationship they have (or allow each other to have) with the area. The Local woman complains about their ways of using her home as a place to act as someone other than who they are at home, the Tourists dispute about what the point of going on holiday is (experience of place or of people), and the Tourists pointing out to the Local that despite her annoyance with the Tourists she sells the local culture to them through the “local hairstyles at local prices” that she provides.
The play centers on the different women’s experiences of place and how they attempt to label and define each other’s abilities and allowed experiences within this place. The particular location of the island is not given but it is likely a Caribbean Island which the white women come to visit to experience something different from their normal lives. The Regular tourist visits the island and has come to see herself as a local, despite the fact she stays in expensive villas while she is there and doesn’t experience the actual lifestyle of locals. Due to this distinction, the local woman resents her for her defining of herself as a local. This play focuses on continued colonization today, as the white women bring themselves to this island to experience the amenities provided to tourists, even those provided by the locals who resent these rich tourists misusage of their home.
Sanctuary by Tanika Gupta
A sanctuary is a place of refuge and escape to find peace in a world full of chaos. In Tanika Gupta’s Sanctuary a group of familiar strangers come together to enjoy the peace of the a garden connected to the cemetery of a closing church. Two of the main characters, Michal and Kibar, spend their days in the cemetery of an old church maintaining and caring for the grounds.
Gone Too Far! by Bola Agbaje
Gone Too Far! is one of Bola Agbaje’s most well known plays. This piece is filled with undeniable truths that she does not try to sugar-coat for her readers, which is exactly why this play is so popular. It broadly describes how racial tension can tear apart a community and divide a brotherhood. Throughout the play, the two main characters– brothers Yemi and Ikudayisi– have internal battles with understanding their identity: they have a Nigerian background but reside in London. Initially, Yemi does not accept his background and Ikudayisi uses a fake American accent when talking to others. The crises they each face is later manifested through dialogue between two supporting characters, Armani and Paris.
While the brothers are out walking around the neighborhood, they see a few of their friends talking, including Armani and Paris. Before either brother could get a word in, Armani talks flippantly about them, and about Africa in general. She immediately gets shut down by her friend Paris though because of how offensive she was being. The two girls then begin arguing about who is really being racist and who is telling the truth. The audience quickly realize that Armani’s character and attitude is the personification of racism fueled by misinformation. After regurgitating all of her so-called truths to her friends, she is accused of being racist because she does not actually know anything about the history of slavery. She gets angry and wants to fight Paris, who she claims is actually the racist who cannot wrap her head around the truth that Armani is giving.
During this argument between the two girls, Armani refuses to listen to Paris when she tries to explain how incorrect she was in her argument. Armani does not want her truth to be challenged, so she attempts to turn the argument on Paris, claiming that she is actually the racist because of her hatred of white people. After the group of friends gets confused by the accusation that Paris is anything less than “the nicest person we know”, Paris explains to Armani that her opinions are problematic. She does not want to understand other perspectives on the matter of racism; she only absorbs information that supports her education on the matter because, as Paris explains, “…that’s what you want to hear”.
Gone Too Far! is an intense read that illustrates racism fueled by lack of education. The character of Armani has a fixed mindset, rooted in hatred of a place and a culture that she knows nothing about. Agbaje reminds her audience that racism is still alive and even thriving depending on the place. Yet, she also shows through the brothers’ relationship that this hatred and prejudice cannot suppress the power of culture.
Fix Up, by Kwame Kwei-Armah
Fix Up, tells a story about a bookstore that is in danger of being closed down by the lease owner to make room for a beauty parlor. There are only five characters in this play that are actually present in it, but they all play a crucial role in the play’s development. Brother Kiyi is the owner of the store and has been the owner in this neighborhood for many years.The play shows that Brother Kiyi and the bookstore have been under appreciated by the surrounding community, even with the book store’s important knowledge containing books that talk about black literature, culture, and politics. These are all pieces of information that the surrounding neighborhood would not have access to otherwise because of how difficult it is to material on these topics. Another important character is, a thirty four year old, named Alice. She goes to the store to to seek knowledge about her ethnic background and seems to be the one person that actually utilizes this bookstores importance. Another character is, a black activist, named Kwesi, who lives above the bookstore and often confronts the suspicions of other characters for the audience to learn about. Carl, a local care-in-the-community delivery boy, becomes friends with Brother Kiyi and in return is taught how to read so that he will be able to understand the importance of knowledge through books. The last important character is, Kiyi’s long time best friend named Norma. Norma seems to be the neighborhood’s leader and often the voice of reason. Norma spends time with Kiyi and in the end provides financial assistance to save the shop, but it ends up being too late. Each of these characters adds a different significance to this play that in the end helps show the audience how important history can be but how it is often looked over when the history involves a minority group in a larger society.
Talking in Tongues by Winsome Pinnock
Winsome Pinnock’s play Talking in Tongues illustrates the messiness and loneliness of relationships through the dialogue of two couples, Bentley and Leela, and Fran and Jeff; and of one woman, Claudette. In the beginning of the play, the scene opens on a house party. Two women, Claudette and her friend Curly, are of in a secluded room to tend to Claudette’s hurt ankle. Claudette takes this time to describe her hatred of men and how they only showed interest in her until a white woman came along. During her jealous and misandry-soaked rant, Curly tries to calm her down by talking about the power of her independence as a single woman. While their conversation continues, in another nearby room, characters Jeff and Bentley are reminiscing about their memories of college when their significant others, Fran and Leela enter the room, asking the boys to dance with them. After several minutes of arguing, they both concede; the scene ends as all characters hit the dancefloor.
After these first couple of scenes, the true nature of the couples unveils itself: Jeff cheats on Fran with Curly while Bentley cheats on Leela with Fran. These hook-ups seem so casually discussed, as if they have been occurring for a while. Bentley and Fran did not realize that the room they stumbled into to hook up was already occupied by Leela, Curly, and Claudette. After the deed was finished, both Bentley and Fran got dressed and returned to the party. Only a few hours later was everything laid out in front of everyone: both Jeff and Curly’s affair and Bentley and Fran’s affair were brought to light, severing all relationships the audience was initially introduced to.
The next scene opens to Claudette and Leela on a beach in the Bahamas where Claudette took Leela on a vacation so she could get away from her office job and her unfaithful ex-boyfriend. While on this trip, Leela seems to find herself on the island and exudes a brighter disposition, while Claudette strikes up an affair with one of the islanders. As has been the theme for this story though, this affair turns sour as her lover, Mikie, finds another tourist to spend his time with. This immediately sends Claudette back to the mood she felt when the audience was first introduced; she becomes angry at this man because she was, once again, no longer interesting when a white woman was in the picture. Later the same night, while her and Leela are drunkenly joking on the beach, they come across the woman that took Mikie away from Claudette, passed out in the sand due to a night of drinking. The two women vengefully joke about doing something to this woman for stealing the man, which eventually leads them to cut off a large lock of the woman’s hair, leaving it next to her and fleeing the scene. The next morning, all three women are at a beachside bar. Claudette leaves—due to the embarrassment she feels looking at the woman with a section of hair missing—Leela and the woman strike up a light conversation about exploring the island, concluding the play.
Talking in Tongues illustrates how difficult it can be for women, especially women of color, to live in their societal roles while still being in touch with their true selves. Leela’s character struggles to connect to her true self throughout the play; she is only able to do this by leaving her unfaithful husband, disloyal friend, and the pressures constantly exerted on her to finally get in touch with her emotions. Pinnock wonderfully illustrates how quickly people can lose control of their life and how this pain can be alleviated by focusing on the person’s own well-being.