Bold and fragile in equal measures, the new play “but i cd only whisper” explores the psyche of a black Vietnam war veteran after he allegedly commits a terrible crime. It delves into the history of a man whose war began long before he joined the army.
The open, exposed stage with soft dimmed lighting creates an intimate and moody atmosphere. This adds to the intensity of this tragic story.
We discover what has led to main character Beau Willie Brown’s arrest through a series of flashbacks and interviews. He talks to the only black psychologist in the city.
From lazing on his sofa to the jungles of Vietnam, we are presented with an ambiguous character. Even in the police interviews with his friends and family, they describe conflicting views of Beau and what he is capable of.
The many flashbacks, simultaneous monologues and conflicting descriptions could easily make this play confusing. Yet these elements are pulled together seamlessly.
Adetomiwa Edun’s stand out performance as Beau switches effortlessly between poetic and violent. He brings this dark tale to life beautifully. Poetic renditions manage to redeem this character, allowing us to sympathise despite his violent tendencies.
His relationship with his girlfriend Crystal is especially tumultuous. But Edun humanises Beau, as he blurs the line between reality and fantasy. Ultimately he must strip back illusions, as he forced to confront a truth neither the audience nor the character wants to face.
Writer Kristiana Colon was inspired by Ntozake Shange’s 1975 play “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf”. This too was set in America in the 1970s when both racism and mental health stigmatisation were rife.
Racy, dramatic scenes are superbly executed, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats. When the truth comes out, the audience is confronted with a reality too brutal and ugly to be said aloud.
but i cd only whisper, directed by Nadia Latif, runs until 1 December at the Arcola Theatre, London E8 3DL