Review: Typical (Soho Theatre on Demand)

This revival of Ryan Calais Cameron’s play Typical highlights deaths caused in police custody or by institutional racism. It features the case of Christopher Alder (played by the versatile Richard Blackwood). Alder is a likeable ex-military man and father treating himself to a Saturday night out.

Alder’s case, in 1998, focuses on how a catalogue of misunderstandings, failures, and racism, led to an avoidable death. Caught in a fight at a club and suffering from a head injury, he was abused by hospital staff and police officers, before choking in his own blood on the floor in a Hull police station.

Typical does not fall into the trap of presenting the events leading up to this in a bleak way. Blackwood’s Alder is a dancer, a rapper, a proud patriot and a man with a streak of mischief.

He’s just like any other man in his thirties letting off a bit of steam at the weekend. He bops along to records as he plans his night out. He chats to his mates on the phone (all have an excuse not to join him, presented in a run of impersonations that keep things light and amusing).

Directed for the screen by Anastasia Osei-Kuffour (cinematography by Jermaine Edwards), Typical is gripping throughout its hour-long running time. As a one-person show, it gives us ample time to get to know Alder, and to see those he encounters through his eyes.

We are his witnesses, whether he is talking about “seeing my boys next week”, chatting up a girl, or thinking back to “what I have done, what I have seen”. It’s not a typical story of a victim, either, or of someone asking for the harsh treatment meted out.

The set and costumes by Zahra Mansouri are very effective:. They hint at both time and place, as well as a bleak eventual outcome. The sound design (by Gareth Fry) and lighting (by Paul Anderson) keep up the momentum throughout the play, whether in a club setting or within a more confined space.

Typical is a brave piece, written in a rhythmic style which is particularly noticeable in the first half of the play as we tune in to the character’s vernacular.

Later the rhythm changes to a physical one as Blackwood acts out the fight, the treatment from the police, the ignominy of an unneccessary death. The power of the second half of the piece is brilliantly done: brutal, uncompromising, and unsettling.

10% of the proceeds after costs will be donated to Inc Arts Minds, a charitable fund created to support the emotional well-being of those affected by systemic and structural racism in the arts. A ticket to view Typical costs £9.99 – there are a number of supplementary interviews and material to watch for free.

Typical is dedicated to all those who have died as a result of systemic racism, the names of many being displayed on the screen at the end. Each name deserves to have their story known; each person needs to be “seen as human” and have their deaths brought to justice.

You can purchase a ticket to view Typical at https://sohotheatreondemand.com/show/typical. It is presented by Soho Theatre and Nouveau Riche.

Image credit: Franklyn Rogers

LouReviews received complimentary access to review Typical.

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