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You Can’t Understand (Susan Elkin reviews)

Show: You Can’t Understand

Society: London (professional shows)

Venue: The Jack Studio Theatre. Brockley Jack, 410 Brockley Road, London SE4 2DH

Credits: By India Wilson. Produced by S.L.U.G. Productions

You Can’t Understand

3 stars

It’s always encouraging to see a talented young actor performing her or his own work. India Wilson, who comes from Bermuda, graduated from Mountview with an MA in Acting in 2021 and You Can’t Understand was initially developed during her training. It’s a one-act play which runs just forty-five minutes – ten minutes less than advertised.

The piece – with a lot of humour and flirty audience participation alongside some serious issues – explores the identity of a mixed race child/teenager named Kika at different stages of her young life. There are several characters and, because this is a one-woman show, Wilson plays them all – with plenty of versatile flair. I especially liked her take on Kika’s white Welsh mother and on Murray the grunting, deep-voiced, taciturn boy that the slightly older Kika crassly throws herself at. She does a great deal of leaping the length of the centre stage bench to convey conversation between two people, in the time-honoured way.

The writing is strong but I was less impressed by the dance and mime sequences. Yes, when Kika’s in a ballet class and annoys the teacher by insisting on doing her solo piece with her own inappropriate (by that class’s standards, anyway) choreography you need to see some dance. But at other moments it seems like a way of stretching the action and there’s a mime scene in which (I think) she’s meant to be  having sex with Murray – but that’s not an easy thing to evoke on your own and it’s unconvincing.

Francesca Solomon, lighting designer and operator, deserves a few plaudits. Her work is imaginatively atmospheric and makes Wilson – at one point in white make up and lipstick, which she has asked an audience member to apply, smeared grotesquely all round her mouth – look quite vulnerable.

This play certainly has potential but at present it feels like work in progress.

First published by Sardines

Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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