In The Blood

Originally scheduled for just half a dozen performances, the run of Suzan-Lori Parks’ urban drama of abuse and deprivation, In The Blood, has been expanded to fill the gap left by the unfortunate postponement, through illness, of The Drawer Boy.

Inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 “The Scarlet Letter”, this European premiere, by the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize, relocates Hester Prynne (the adulterous heroine of his novel) from 17th century Boston to a street beneath a bridge in present day New York. Here, renamed Hester La Negrita, she’s a homeless black woman struggling to bring up five children by five different absent fathers, none of whom is prepared to acknowledge his paternity nor contribute to their welfare.

Illiterate, impoverished and with her offspring her only “treasures” she’s despised by society and exploited by the very agencies which are meant to help her. The doctor who treats her occasionally accepts payment in kind and recommends that, like an animal, she should be “spayed”. The smug, superior social worker is equally culpable, and the minister (an ex-alkie who used to sleep rough) now collects money to build a new church but denies responsibility for the son, her youngest, which he secretly fathered.

Parks’ language is powerful, poetic, direct, and she paints a disturbing picture of the underbelly of America, where charity comes at a cost and naïve hopes are snuffed out again and again. Natasha Bain’s Hester convinces both in her misguided optimism and her ultimate despair, whilst the rest of the cast (doubling as her children and the adults who have affected her life) swap seamlessly between roles in Daniel Burgess’s vivid but ultimately bleak production.

American Dream Finborough, Finborough Road, SW10 9ED
0844 847 1652
Tube: Earl’s Court Tube
Until 4th September
£11 – £15

Review: Louise Kingsley