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October 2019
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Random: Death Gets A Date With The Stage

Known for her hard-hitting plays, visceral style and distinctive voice; Debbie Tucker Green returns to the Royal Court with Random. A one-hander with Nadine Marshall as the only visible character on stage, It is bound to be another ‘in-yer face’ production.

randomHer debut play, Dirty Butterfly opened to critical acclaim and she has been described as a ‘millennial’ playwright. Green’s plays deal with contemporary issues of the British society which transcends beyond the boundaries of race; striking a rare balance with white and black audiences. From female sex tourism in Trade to betrayal in Born Bad. Generations, a play about the HIV epidemic which has reaped through three generations of a South African family was last year’s runaway success at the Young Vic, gaining plaudits with audience and critics alike.

Random, is Green’s third collaborative production with Sacha Wares, who also directed Trade and Generations, and Nadine Marshall’s second collaboration with Green on a stage production. Random deals with the sensitive subject matter of death. A play about the typical day in a young woman’s life as she tells us about herself, where she lives, goes to work, her colleagues and her family. It is a character Marshall defines as “A normal everyday young person living in London, trying to make sense of her life.”

While, Marshall jokingly states she was coerced into the role, she admits to be drawn to it because “I have done a couple of Debbie’s stuff before and they are different to other characters I have come across, and that’s what attracted me to it.”  She is also a big fan of Green’s characters because “I find her characters are so real, I can relate to that. I think that’s what I take away from her writing,” she says.

What makes Random different in comparison to some of Green’s previous plays is that it only has one character. A reality Marshall has acknowledged as being daunting because her character has no name neither do some the offstage characters. “They are labelled. I think it’s deliberate that they don’t have names, they are labelled as the family but they don’t have actual names,” she explains. A point reiterated by Gbolahan Obiesan, the plays assistant director, who adds the characters are “Archetypal roles basically.” She admits to being nervous about this production, “I’m nervous, I’m so nervous” she says. “I don’t usually get nervous before I start things. I might get nervous before I go on stage or just before the cameras start rolling but this one, I have been nervous since I said yes.” In addition to being nervous, Marshall also feels conspicious. “I’m by myself. I have never done anything where I think I’m completely exposed as an actress.” However, she does not believe this is a make or break role for her.

A role which requires Marshall to distinguish between different characters at key points of the production; nonetheless, she has a strategy to help her with that task. “There are a lot of pre-conceived ideas that I have put on the back-burner when dealing with this role. For one, I don’t have a name, so I have to deal with that. Two, I am playing 10 different characters and I have to deal with that and three, I don’t have any set, I have no costumes and I have to deal with all of that,” she says. However, she is adamant it all “Challenges the way you think about storytelling and theatre and what you think it should be.”

The ability of one actress to play multiple roles is one the artistic team has taken into account as explained by Obisesan. “Its like those idiosyncrasies that we can all work with just to get them as specifically as possible.” For Marshall, the aim is to always play these different roles to the best of her ability by being, “In the character, talk as that person will talk and feel as that person will feel or look as that person will look and stand as that person will stand,” she explains. “You don’t necessarily need another hat or pair of shades to show somebody that you are playing someone different.” As affirmed by Obisesan, who puts it down to Marshall’s adeptness to interpret the different characters. “I think that’s a testament to Nadine’s skills as an actress because most of these quirkiness are naturally informed by her in the sense that she has an incline of what those characters are like.”

While she has no defined strategy on how to keep the audience focused on her throughout the show, she believes the key is, “To do what I need to do, which is to be truthful and be in the moment, and then in turn hope that is what keeps you hooked and engaged.”  She further explains, “If I think about the audience and how they might feel, then I’ll be out of what I am doing. I won’t be completely in it. So I try not to think about it and I try to be completely in what I am doing, and be completely truthful and completely organic and hopefully, they will get it.”

Regarding audience expectation and what they should take away from the production, Obisesan prefers that they come with no pre-conceived ideas of what to expect. Rather, “People should be there to see a story, a story about a family and the larger society because that family is part of the larger society we live in,” he says. “Its how their story can affect all of us but then, it’s also how we choose to respond to it.” For Marshall, it is a personal affair. “Personally, I want the audience to come away with, seeing a topic that they read in the newspapers or see on TV and having some kind of idea about the topic but coming to see Random, and it being completely switched on them,” she elucidates. “They see this topic from a completely different angle and have a different view of it that they didn’t have before. I think I would like for them to go away with that,” she asserts.

Note: The revived production is currently on tour around the UK, to end on 26 June.

This article was first published by The Voice Newspaper in 2008

Image: Royal Court Theatre


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