‘A Kind of People’ review – Sharp cultural drama disorientates

Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s play on prejudices and expectations sparks several shocking conflicts, but one central idea struggles to ignite – ★★★

A Kind of People follows the fallout from a house gathering and, in its rapid introduction of characters with their confusing and interweaving subplots, has all the traits of a traditional party: it’s hard to keep track of all of the conversation and one person inevitably has too much to drink.

In this case, it has devastating repercussions. When host Gary’s (Richie Campbell) boss, Victoria (Amy Morgan), has one too many, she ends up making racist remarks as a result. While there is some element of over-acting to Morgan’s performance, the unsettling incident creates cracks – at work around a potential promotion, with his colleague Mark (Thomas Coombes) and primarily with his wife, Nicky (Claire-Louise Cordwell).

There is much in Bhatti’s script which is painfully relevant to our current society, from workplace discrimination to Nicky’s friend Anjum’s experience around prejudice for wearing a hijab. Their discussion around school places for their children glimpses at prejudice, but in juggling several ideas at once, the play’s many debates carry an initial punch, but lack a longer impact.

The central narrative in amongst it all is a fractured relationship between Nicky and Gary around their sides in the aforementioned ‘fight or flight’ debate – whether or not to make things work. Campbell stands out as a caring and passionate Gary who radiates warmth. Cordwell’s Nicky is equally emotive, but there’s a different type of defensiveness to her character – sharper, almost – which is an interesting contrast.

Despite this, there’s a sense that re-reading the playtext afterwards would offer more time to digest their relationship and indeed, the play as a whole. While the lighting by Aideen Malone does well to guide our focus throughout, Michael Buffong’s direction of the final moments confuses the drama. Again, it’s only when returning to the script that the conclusion, and a sense of Gary’s motivation as a character, became clear.

In Anna Fleischle’s set and Bhatti’s writing, A Kind of People is definitely strong in its expansiveness. As a snapshot of current social issues and an exploration of prejudices and expectations, it is certainly stark, but it does little other than expose these topics. That may well be its intention to some extent, but when it examines the question of ‘fight or flight’ in relation to tolerance and relationships, the problem and its faint solution is lost in the conversation.

A Kind of People is now playing at the Royal Court until 25 January.

Production Images: Manuel Harlan.

Disclaimer: I was invited to watch A Kind of People for free in exchange for a review of the performance as a member of the press. I did not receive payment for this review and all opinions stated are honest and my own.

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