By Jamie Moore
Dael Orlandersmith’s superlative work of documentary theatre Until The Flood comes to the Arcola Theatre this September. With the Arcola as European production partner, the play had its European premiere at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where it was rampantly received and showered with accolades including The Scotsman Fringe First Award and The Stage Edinburgh Award. These awards are richly deserved.
Written and performed by the exceptional Dael Orlandersmith, the play takes the 2014 police shooting of teenager Michael Brown as its point of departure. Orlandersmith conducted interviews in St Louis on the topics of Michael Brown, the Ferguson riots and race relations in America more broadly; these were then fictionalised by Orlandersmith and presented as a series of characters, each with a distinctive perspective, voice and physicality, all embodied and delivered by Dael Orlandersmith with aplomb.
The power of the piece lies in Orlandersmith’s ability to present the characters without judgement; she inhabits them so fully that their words irradiate the audience, compelling them to wrestle with the diversity each characters’, sometimes difficult, opinions. Even the characters whose racism is overt and unapologetic are crafted and embodied with a truth that renders them as more than simple villains or repositories for the audience’s ire.
In the closing moments of the play, Orlandersmith, or her theatrical conduit, steps forth and delivers a quietly thunderous poem that rumbles on long after the audience have scuttled off to the bar.
Until The Flood plays at the Arcola Theatre until 28 September 2019.
Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL
020 7503 1646