Review: RED DUST ROAD.  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

THEATRE

RED DUST ROAD.     EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL  

LYCEUM THEATRE 

August 14, 15, 17, 18 7.30 pm   August 15, 17 2.30 pm   August 16th 1.00 pm

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5 stars)

This show opens up the whole life of a delightful and much respected Scottish writer – Jackie Kay, the Scottish Makar or national poet. It is a stage adaptation of her prose account  of her life and of her search for her birth parents, plus the consequences of her finding them.
Jackie’s birth mother was a young woman in the rural north of Scotland in the early 1960s when she became pregnant by a Nigerian student who then went back to Nigeria. Her situation was very difficult, and little Jackie was given up for adoption. She was very fortunate to be adopted by a Glaswegian couple whom she always describes as very loving; they also had an adopted boy, and eventually she wondered why she and her brother were one colour and her parents another. This led to her asking questions that decades later prompted her quest for her birth parents.
The production begins with a lively dance, and then Sasha Frost as Jackie is alone and speaking to us. Sasha portrays Jackie extremely well, with her bright cheerfulness and her questioning approach, with bubbling optimism and vulnerability. As with the autobiographical book on which it is based, the shown then dives into Jackie’s first meeting with her father, Jonathan, who has become a born again Christian, wants to dance away the sin that she is to him, and to convert her. Stephan Adegbola brings great brio to this character.
As a young girl of mixed heritage who quickly realises she is lesbian, Jackie faces many forms of discrimination from those around her, and these are vividly portrayed. She forms close and supportive friendships, and discovers that she is not the only black lesbian in town.
The whole cast are extremely effective and spirited in their interpretations. Elaine C Smith and Lewis Howden are excellent as the parents. The play reflects much that is characteristic of Jackie Kay, in its easy movement between the intellectual and the popular, between the celebratory and the bleak. The adaptation by Tanika Gupta and the direction by Dawn Walton are wholly excellent.
This is a show that displays the common humanity of very many different people, reflects on what empire has done to everyone, has people of many backgrounds thrusting onwards with life and love, and is perhaps, in these clouded times, something that the world very much needs.
See this show, see how Jackie has triumphed and lived fully, and has given us all so much, and feel how good it is to be alive, and to share the world with this truly splendid cast.
TONY CHALLIS