REVIEW: A Raisin in the Sun at Nuffield Theatre, Southampton

Ashley Zhangazha shone in A Raisin in the Sun at Nuffield Theatre, Southampton
Ashley Zhangazha shone in A Raisin in the Sun at Nuffield Theatre, Southampton

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This is a play of firsts. The first play written by a black woman to be performed on Broadway; the first to authentically portray the lives of African-Americans.

And if this production is anything to go by, it’s also a vehicle for some first-class acting.

In a post-civil rights era, it’s hard to imagine an audience struggling to empathise with the oppressed Youngers

After winning acclaim for his performance as Macbeth at the Sheffield Crucible, Ashley Zhangazha continues the streak as Walter.

And it’s no coincidence: the character’s tragic ambition has much in common with Shakespeare’s hero.

Walter’s struggle to fill the shoes of his recently deceased father as head of the Younger family underpins the play’s big themes – money, racial tension and the pursuit of happiness.

The American Dream is countered with the staging of this production, rooted in banal reality – real eggs frying on a real cooker in the cramped flat the Youngers call home. At least the company opted out of using real cockroaches.

Angela Wynter, best known as Yolande Trueman in EastEnders, found the tenderness in family matriarch Lena Younger, and as Walter’s outspoken sister Beneatha Susan Wokoma balanced humorous asides and bitter social criticism.

In a post-civil rights era, it’s hard to imagine an audience struggling to empathise with the oppressed Youngers – but it’s a reminder of how far society has come, and how far it has yet to go. Until Saturday.