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Sharp, short and surely deserving a West End transfer, David Mamet’s 2009 play about race, sex, lies and the American legal system sometimes stretches credulity, but 80 minutes whiz past in a flash thanks to cracking dialogue and a pair of kick-ass performances.

Accused of raping a black woman with whom he’d previously had consensual sex, it’s hard to believe that potential new client Charles Strickland (Charles Daish), rich, privileged, white and with an ingrained sense of entitlement, would be quite so reticent about disclosing relevant information to the new legal representatives he’s keen to appoint.

But he’s no fool and has deliberately jettisoned his Jewish lawyer in favour of another firm with one black and one white partner.

Jasper Britton’s quick-fire Lawson and Clarke Peters’ Brown (his quietly lethal black colleague)  are both excellent, in effect bringing the courtroom into their Manhattan offices as they try to tease out a defence which will acquit Strickland of a charge in which (guilty or not) the racial odds are stacked against him.

Mamet doesn’t probe as deeply as he might - the lawyers’ contention that all black folks hate white folks is a simplification too far. But Terry Johnson’s swift production grips throughout with its unexpected twists, and the presence of a junior associate (Nina Toussaint-White) - who happens to be black, young and female - adds extra layers to Lawson and Brown’s deliberations regarding the advisability of even touching such a toxic case.

Hampstead, Eton Avenue, NW3 3EU
Tube | Swiss Cottage
Until 29th June   
£22-£29
hampsteadtheatre.com

Photo: Alastair Muir


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Race - theatre review: Hamstead Theatre, Swiss Cottage
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