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Beneatha’s Place: Provocative Play explores Legacy of Colonialism and the future of Black American History

Beneatha’s Place: Provocative Play explores Legacy of Colonialism and the future of Black American History

The Young Vic’s new offering Beneatha’s Place explores the legacy of colonialism and the future of Black America in the history books. Written and directed by Young Vic Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah, the play is inspired by Lorraine Hansberry’s modern classic, A Raisin in the Sun, and follows one of its characters, Beneatha, on a journey to Africa and back.

The play is set-in two-time periods: 1959, when Beneatha leaves the US with her Nigerian husband to start a new life in Lagos; and present day, when Beneatha returns to the same house as a renowned academic who faces a crisis in her field of African American studies.

The play challenges today’s culture wars about colonial history and reckoning with the past. The play is staged in the Young Vic’s Main House. A  talented cast of actors play dual roles across the two time periods. Cherrelle Skeete is brilliant as the title role Beneatha, portraying her as a smart, passionate, and complex woman  with a stillness to her presence on stage Skeete’s Beneatha is a woman who struggles with her identity, her relationships, and her ideals. Zackary Momoh as Joseph is her idealist husband who becomes disillusioned with Nigeria’s independence; Jumoké Fashola as Asagai, her auntie who challenges her views on Africa; Sebastian Armesto as Dean Denlinger, her white colleague who claims to be an ally but has his own agenda; and together the actors bring just the right about of  humour, tension, and emotion to the play. Witty dialogue reminds us of Kwame’s place as a skilled writer, insightful arguments and surprising revelations that engage and entertain.

The play tackles themes such as loyalty, sacrifice, morality, and identity, as Beneatha faces difficult choices and dilemmas in both time periods. The play also pays homage to Hansberry’s original play, with references to characters and events from A Raisin in the Sun. Beneatha’s Place is an impressive and ambitious play that offers a fresh perspective on the issues of race, politics, history, and power. It is a thought-provoking and entertaining piece of theatre that will make you laugh, think, and feel. Definitely a play to see for 2023 highly recommended to anyone who loves drama, satire, and social commentary.

A  simple but effective set design by Debbie Duru, evokes both the colonial mansion in Lagos and the modern university campus. Sand coloured walls give you a feel of the place. The walls of the mansion in part one is adorned with “mementos” brought from  America by Joseph. The mementos reflect a  time when mammies and coons were/are part of the racist dialogue. Joseph somehow believes he can reclaim the racist meaning of the objects.

Background to the play and Director:

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Kwame Kwei-Armah, is the writer of the play and the Artistic Director of the Young Vic. He wrote Beneatha’s Place in 2013 as a sequel to Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun and as a response to Bruce Norris’s Clybourne Park, which both dealt with race and housing in America. He premiered the play in Baltimore, where he was the Artistic Director of Center Stage, and ran it in repertory with Clybourne Park. The play received positive reviews and was nominated for several awards. The current production at the Young Vic is the UK premiere of the play, and Kwei-Armah has updated it to reflect today’s culture wars and debates about colonial history and critical race theory. The production features a talented cast of actors who play dual roles across two time periods: 1959 and present day. The production is a powerful and provocative piece of theatre that challenges the audience to think about the legacy of colonialism and the future of Black America

Beneatha’s Place | Young Vic: