Review: Fences Theatre Royal, Bath by Gerry Parker 8/10
IT has taken 15 years for this the sixth of August Wilson's Pittsburgh Cycle of plays, which examine the position of African Americans in the USA, to reach this country.
A Pulizer Prize and Tony Award winner in 1987 it had a highly successful first run of 525 performances on Broadway with James Earl Jones taking the award as best actor for his portrayal of the frustrated former Baseball player Troy Moxam. In the much praised revival two years ago Denzel Washington also took the Tony Award for best actor.
Lenny Henry therefore follows in distinguished footsteps as he recreates this highly motivated man struggling against race prejudices in 1950's America in an attempt to safeguard his family from what he saw as prejudices which did not allowed him reach his true potential as a sportsman.
He has built fences, like the one his wife would like him to place around their garden, around the modest safe life he has built for himself and his family, and brutally denies his son the chance to succeed as a sportsman where he failed. No fences can keep out personal desires which threaten the family even more than colour prejudices, and as these take over Lenny Henry presents a powerful expertly judged portrait of a man torn apart by mixed emotions.
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At the heart of this conflict was Tanya Moodie providing a fine sensitive portrayal of Troy's deeply loving wife frantically searching for ways to preserve their marriage. Colin Mcfarlane's beautifully underplayed family friend Jim Bono, Ashley Zhangazha as the younger son torn between love and fear of his father, Peter Bankole's happy go lucky older boy, Terence Maynard as Troy's mentally disturbed elder brother, plus the choice of one of three lively young players as the late addition to the family complete a very strong cast.
Under Paulette Randall's direction, and encased in Libby Watson's atmospheric set, there was tension, humour and an overriding sense of foreboding, only the symbolic ending was not completely clear in its intentions.