Blues for an Alabama Sky
National Theatre, London, until November 5
When a character in a play makes a big fuss of the fact he’s carrying a gun, it’s an odds-on certainty things aren’t going to end well.
Sure enough, they end bloodily in Blues for an Alabama Sky, Pearl Cleage’s homage to the steamy plays of Tennessee Williams, which is set in an all-black neighbourhood in Harlem during the great depression.
The story focuses on a fragile singer – played by Samira Wiley – and a gay fashion designer – Giles Terera – who dream of better and more colourful lives.
A way out presents itself for the former in a “gentleman caller” played by Osy Ikhile, but it’s the latter’s dream that ultimately comes true.
Across the passageway of their rambling home – an impressive creation by the designer Frankie Bradshaw – lives a fine upstanding church-goer (Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo) who is dating Sule Rimi’s charming, easy-going doctor, and their lives become tragically entwined.
Terera makes the most of his big, larger-than-life character and inevitably dominates proceedings. Lynette Linton’s production is assured and stylish and clearly, no expense has been spared. Alas, the ending – when it eventually comes after all of two hours and 45 minutes – isn’t such a huge surprise, and I wondered if an awful lot of it didn’t seem awfully contrived.