Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun is a dense, emotive and skillfully constructed debut play, with the Sydney Theatre Company production bringing the work to the stage with grace, respect and unashamed honesty.
The Younger family all have dreams – dreams of a better life, a career, a simple life, a life free from the pressure and struggle of oppression and a dream to just be left alone to live, freely.
Hope comes in the form of a Life Insurance cheque, but with so much at stake, surely nothing will derail this family’s once in a lifetime chance to come together and make a future of their own design.
Wesley Enoch directs this production with an understanding of the themes and a knowing of the deeper experiences within the work. Each moment of the play unravels with a masterful naturalistic style – nothing feels overwrought or cliche, the story unfolding as if the audience is looking through a window or door into this family’s world.
There are times however, albeit few, when Enoch’s directorial style inhibits the actors from fully engaging with the work and causing some of the most prominent moments within the work to have a hollow quality to them.
Gayle Samuels steals the show as Lena Younger, the at times unwilling matriarch of the family. Performed with the utmost respect, grace and wit, Samuels breathes life into a weary and heartbroken woman who is prepared to defy the world around her and keep on going – no matter the cost.
Zahra Newman brings the same level of heartbreak to Ruth Younger, but soon reveals a woman with little to hope for. Newman’s vulnerability shines strong as the narrative evolves, with Ruth’s complex place within the family unit sometimes making her an observer but thanks to Newman, she is never not present within the scene.
Bert LaBonté as Walter Younger never seems to get to the brutal core of the character. Rather he scoots round the edges of Walter’s rage and leaves the character insipidly weak than understandably flawed.
Nancy Denis, Angela Mahlatjie, Gaius Nolan, Leinad Walker, Jacob Warner, Adolphus Waylee and Ibrahima Yade flawlessly inject a wealth of humanity, pathos and humour to the ensemble of characters that intertwine and enrich the story.
Mel Page and Verity Hampson’s respective set and lighting design allows the further depths of these characters’ reality to be explored – hidden details and carefully timed lighting drew the audience in to truly give over to the world unfolding before them.
Brendon Boney’s sound design paints a rich portrait of the time and place of the story and uses subtle light and shade to underpin and heighten the characters’ joys and sorrows.
It should never have taken so long for a main stage company to mount a production of Lorraine Hansberry’s work, but with this story told so well by a team of spellbinding creatives, main stage companies can no longer deny that works of this nature, and featuring characters found within, are difficult to stage and perform.
A Raisin in the Sun
Wharf 1 Theatre – Sydney Theatre Company, 15 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay (Sydney)
Performance: Friday 9 September 2022
Season continues to 15 October 2022
Information and Bookings: www.sydneytheatre.com.au
Image: A Raisin in the Sun – photo by Joseph Mayers
Review: Gavin Roach