Review: Class, misogyny and hope mix in Red Snapper

Nick Le Mesurier reviews Red Snapper at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Cathy Tyson in Red Snapper

It’s 1962. Jamaica is on the verge of independence. New ideas and new hopes are on the horizon, but also new dangers, greater than any faced before.

Castro is in power just a few miles south. America and Russia are flexing their Cold War muscles in the Caribbean. The island is about to be thrust into the centre stage of world politics. Not that it will make the old guards of patriarchy and money change their tunes at home, not unless it suits them. At the forefront of demands for change are the women, but will they manage to turn this combustible situation into a revolution that benefits everyone, or will things remain fundamentally the same?

Red Snapper is a very sophisticated play. It’s about class, about misogyny, about poverty and exploitation. But it is also about hope and pride and dignity, and just how hard it is to bring about change from within.

This is a play full of very clever devices. Five women actors play ten characters, each doubling as a male / female duo. The men are in charge, or so they think. The cast have the male swagger and thrust off to a tee. Each character has a secret to hide.

Cathy Tyson as Pearline is the star, but every actress delivers a memorable performance.

The play emerged from the Critical Mass programme, which supports black and minority ethnic writers at the Belgrade to develop their talents. This is the first professionally produced play to come out of this remarkable collaboration.

It sets the bar very high indeed.

* Red Snapper runs until Saturday March 19. Call 024 7655 3055 for tickets.