Blood at the RootBy Peter Maddern

One cringes at the thought of handing out a five star review right at the outset of the silly season, but I left Holden Street yesterday afternoon not knowing how to avoid it – certainly the audience left me in no doubt about how Blood at the Root affected them.

While inspired by the true story of six black teenagers charged with attempted murder of a white student after a schoolyard fight, Blood at the Root is much more than an US civil rights play transplanted down under. What is cleverly developed is not the ‘blue eye – brown eye – how would you feel?’ thing but the parallel world of gay students facing social isolation if not oblivion because of their sexuality and the uncomfortable world for many of tolerance from a distance. When it is the school’s football quarterback that gets beaten up, all have their positions on the issues severely questioned. As coming out becomes easier, so this generation’s parents will see this resonate strongly with them as well as students.
This production comes from Penn State University and the performances from each of the six young cast members are evenly great. Dominique Morisseau’s play creates six quite disparate characters and allows each within the 75 minutes of the production the clear air to develop them, providing at the conclusion the opportunity for the most forceful expressions of angst. Each of the cast grabs their moment in the light and spanks the audience with uncompromising finales.
This is full on theatre and if any criticism can be made it is that after a promising start the lighting director seemed to doze of – but, of course, it is early days in the season.
As mentioned at the outset, I was much moved by both the production and the reaction it engendered. How many theatre shows get a near spontaneous standing ovation and cheering from their audience – this was the stuff normally reserved for rock stars!
Perhaps the piece of theatre of the season, Blood at the Root is a compelling production.

Krzytoff Rating   5K

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