The debut run of Claudia Rankine’s The White Card comes to HOME this week, a groundbreaking, eye-opening story of white privilege, cultural appropriation, and representation.
Hugely acclaimed Northern Stage Artistic Director Natalie Ibu is at the helm of the production. The plot follows a wealthy white couple who invite a talented black artist to dinner where tensions run high and a heated debate uncovers uncomfortable truths about race and privilege.
Rankine, the multi-award-winning author of six collections of poetry, explained the inspiration behind the story: “For me, The White Card is an invitation to have the difficult and necessary conversations about the discomfort we usually negotiate silently when it comes to race relations. The goal is not to get rid of the discomfort, but to increase the possibility for intimacy inside new narrative frameworks.”
In a bid to remove barriers when it comes to balancing careers and family life, the lead role of Charlotte will be played by Estella Daniels (Chloe/BBC ONE & Amazon) for the first half of the show’s UK-wide three-month run, before handing over to Christine Gomes (Romeo and Juliet/Orange Tree Theatre).
Speaking about the decision to switch, Ibu explains: “Recent research by Parents and Carers in Performing Arts showed that one in four women are doing 90% or more of the childcare and struggling to work or seek work, and 72% are considering abandoning their career in the performing arts. If you overlay that with Kimberlé Crenshaw’s work on intersectionality, I bet those stats are even worse for Black female pregnant actors. As a sector we must act now to support working mums or mums-to-be or continue to lose incredible talent from our stages, as well as setting our equality goals back decades.”
Estella and Christine are joined by Matthew Pidgeon (Local Hero/Royal Lyceum Theatre & Old Vic) as Charles; Kate Copeland (The First Man/Jermyn Street Theatre) as Virginia; Nick Blakeley (I Heart Catherine Pistachio/Soho Theatre & Yard Theatre) as Eric and CJ Coleman in his professional debut as Alex.
Natalie Ibu stressed how the production is made is just as important as the show itself: “The White Card is about making the unseen, seen. Embracing the politics of the play and bringing together an incredible team of creatives who are all from the global majority was absolutely vital on this project. We’re also committing to engaging as many Black makers, brands and retailers as possible—for example, sourcing costumes from Black-owned companies. I’m proud that, at Northern Stage, we take diversity seriously, both on and off our stages.”
In an addition to the original production, a local ensemble of Black women at each venue will work with movement director Rachael Nanyonjo on the transition between scenes, transforming not just the physical space but shifting the perspective and power.
Natalie explained: “I had the privilege of meeting Claudia Rankine in New York and asked her if there’s anything she wished she’d done differently. She thought about it for a moment and then said that she wished she’d given Charlotte—our single Black protagonist—community. That moved and stayed with me. As Black women, our experiences so often shift from traumatic experiences of being ‘the only one’ publicly to nourishing experiences of being one of many, privately. So, this ensemble of women are really important to us, Black women making the production, and really important to the play.”
The White Card is a co-production between Northern Stage, Birmingham Rep, Leeds Playhouse and Soho Theatre, in association with HOME Manchester.
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Wed 18 May - Sat 21 May, HOME, 27 Peter St, Manchester M2 5QR
- Bradley Lengden
- Published on:
- Sat 14 May 2022