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ONLINE THEATRE Tales from the Front Line

Resonant accounts of the impact of the pandemic on the black community

TALAWA, Britain’s leading black theatre company, have released their third and fourth short dramatised monologues based on verbatim interviews with black key workers on the front line of the Covid crisis.

We hear the daily experiences of a railway worker and a part-time supermarket assistant, and their tales make for interesting comparisons and contrasts.

The good-humoured demeanour of Kwame Bentil’s middle-aged train despatch worker conceals a thinly veiled frustrated anger at the behaviour of many of the station travellers he meets.

The irony implicit in a black passenger refusing to stop smoking on the platform until a white manager tells him to brings home the entrenched racism in much of the public’s consciousness.

In the fourth episode, Ann Akin plays a part-time assistant in a high-quality supermarket who is much more analytical.

She observes the characteristic rudeness of customers and attitude that has changed with the advent of the Covid panic — brash condescension is replaced with excessive gratitude for service.

Maybe it is essentially an age difference, but where age and experience reflect a resigned acceptance, youth — fuelled with future hopes — is convinced that “everything is going to be OK.”

The Talawa project is designed to give black workers in Britain space to voice their experiences, but it does more.

When finished, and there are two more tales to come, it will provide a record of how the pandemic impact has laid bare social attitudes which are often depressing but, optimistically, may have undergone change in a healthier future.

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