Lower Ninth

Stranded on a rooftop, two African-Americans sweat, bicker, banter and
wonder whether anyone will come to their rescue before it’s too late for
them, just as it is already for the garbage bag covered corpse of their
drug-dealing friend whose body, hauled from the rising water, lies
decomposing next to them.

Kicking off the Donmar’s first Trafalgar Studios season showcasing the work
of its Resident Assistant Directors, Charlotte Westenra’s atmospheric
production of American playwright Beau Willimon’s short new play takes us
back to 2005 when the Mississippi flooded its banks in the wake of Hurricane
Katrina and New Orleans became a watery grave for hundreds of inhabitants –
and the failure of the emergency services subsequently claimed the lives of
many more.

The dialogue fizzes in the early scenes as young E-Z and older
bible-spouting Malcolm try to outwit each other in a time-passing game of
twenty questions. Malcolm was once a bad boy who, years ago, walked out on
E-Z’s now dead mother and has since found God. But Willimon only offers
tantalising hints of their past lives, focussing on their current
predicament as, without food or water, their condition deteriorates.

Like its protagonists, the play can’t find a way forward, but Ray Fearon and
Anthony Welsh are superb as, respectively, born-again Malcolm struggling to
maintain control over a still volatile temper and edgy, resentful E-Z who’s
more scared than he wants to let on.


Trafalgar Studios (2), Whitehall, SW1A 2DY
0844 871
Tube: Charing Cross tube
Until 23rd October

Review: Louise Kingsley