August Wilson (1945 -2005) set out to chronicle the African American
experience, decade by decade, in a series of ten dramas spanning the 20th

Premiered in 1986, the award-winning Joe Turner….
(chronologically, the second play, though the fourth to be staged) deals
with the 1910’s, a period in which newly freed African slaves from the South
were making their way to the industrial North in the hope of better

For David Lan’s fine revival, designer Patrick Burnier has covered the floor
of the seating area as well as the central acting space with the red earth
of Pittsburgh where, in 1911, freeborn Seth Holly (Danny Sapani) and his
wife Bertha (a warm, life affirming performance from Adjoah Andoh) run a
boarding house to supplement his income from making pots and pans.

Between them, the lives of the residents provide a snapshot of the period –
American actor Delroy Lindo’s long-term lodger Bynum with his healing powers
and spiritual outlook, Petra Letang’s pert, well-dressed young lady (with a
penchant for “company” ) who is just passing through and Kobna
Holdbrook-Smith‘s pained, damaged Loomis (stiff in his hat and heavy
overcoat and with his 11 year old daughter in tow) a church deacon in
search of the wife from whom he was separated by seven years forced labour
on Joe Turner’s chain gang.

A fascinating, if sometimes meandering, mix of voodoo and everyday, of the
naturalistic and the symbolic, it’s a moving and atmospheric account of a
period a century ago when, despite the inherent optimism, a bank loan for a
black man’s business was almost impossible to secure and the idea of Barack
Obama in the White House would have been viewed as a ridiculous flight of


Young Vic, The Cut, SE1 8LZ
Tube: Southwark / Waterloo
0207 922 2922
Till 3rd July
£22.50 (Limited number of £10
tickets for under 26’s)

Review: Louise Kingsley