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The Crack Magazine

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The White Card

The White Card, Northern Stage

I don’t often use the word coruscating, mostly because few things do manage to coruscate, either in the sense of flashing brilliant sparks or of wielding a devastatingly sharp argument.  “The White Card” quite definitely coruscates. American poet/editor/essayist/playwrite Claudia Rankine starts with a situation fraught with witty satirical possibilities, where philanthropy, pretention and social anxiety clash horribly, but a deceptively quieter second act ramps up the tension as a single confrontation peels back layer after layer of cultural self-deception.

The setting is that dramatic favourite, the dinner party, where wealthy, well-meaning Charles and Virginia can display a collection of contemporary art that reveals their awareness of racial injustice – as well as their taste, wealth and a generous enthusiasm that stands in for understanding, empathy or self-awareness. Art validates their right not to see, and what they do not see is the intrinsic privilege of their situation in the invisibility of their own unexamined whiteness. Negotiating for the latest work by Charlotte, their dinner guest, the unimpeachably liberal standards by which they measure themselves get undermined, but the possibilities of real re-presentation begin slowly to emerge. With effective characterisation and acting throughout, the calm confidence of Estella Daniels’ Charlotte resonated and anchored Natalie Ibu’s deeply telling production of a landmark contemporary play.

Photo credit Wasi Daniju

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