This short play, filmed at The Actors Centre in Seven Dials, is written by Cliffordkuju Henry, who also stars as Patrick.
As we find this black man in a holding area in a police station together with the white Mickey (played by Drew Edwards), we know we are in complex territory. Both have been arrested for their behaviour on a march that has turned violent, and although they were childhood friends, Mickey has become a right-wing white supremacist.
Both come from the same background: violent father, a mother they couldn’t protect, a deprived inner-city estate. This is explored to some extent but fails to fully address the whys and wherefores of how such an upbringing may breed extreme views in later life.
Years on, their former playground has been ‘gentrified’, and Mickey in particular looks back to some halcyon days that never were, before the immigrants (Patrick reminds him they have always been welcomed as ‘cheap labour’, essential in fact).
From the glimpse of the men, we see before us, it is hard to believe they were ever friends. Mickey is a little overdrawn and overplayed, a textbook nationalist quoting the Flag and given to angry outbursts. Patrick is calmer, bulkier, more reflective, even as he recalls living in fear in a world gone by his white contemporaries look back to with longing.
There are moments in Victoria Evaristo’s production that impress: one scene with Patrick is filmed in a very startling and immediate way; Mickey’s recall of a rescue raises numerous questions about the warmth he feels towards this once-close friend.
“It’s nothing personal”, Mickey states on joining with a like-minded gang to reclaim the good old days. But Henry’s script challenges this – not entirely successfully, as I didn’t fully believe in the characters he has placed in this situation, but with some thought as to class and race conflict.
In Search of a White Identity is available at the Actors Centre website until 6 December. Tickets cost £8.