In 2014, African American teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. Darren Brown’s shot ignited weeks of social unrest, propelled by the activist movement known as Black Lives Matter and prompted a controversial investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.
In the European premiere of Until the Flood, this gripping drama, based on real-life interviews with Missouri residents in the aftermath of the shooting, Pulitizer Prize nominee, Dael Orlandersmith portrays the many faces of a community rallying for justice, and a country still yearning for change.
A simple yet effective set by Takeshi Kata, with lighting by Mary Louise Geiger and video design by Nicholas Hussong, depicts a shrine to Michael Brown, comprising soft toys, handwritten activist slogans and lit candles. Its simplicity allows you to concentrate on the dialogue in question.
In this one-woman play, Orlandersmith gives a strong, commanding performance and captivates us as she portrays eight different characters, both black and white and men and women.
We meet ‘Louisa Hemphill, black, early seventies, retired school teacher; Rusty Harden: seventy-five, white, retired policeman, lives in Lemay; Hassan Black: seventeen: street kid; speaks in a regular, poetic, aggressive voice; Connie Hamm: white, thirty-five, a high school teacher who lives and work in University; Reuben Little: black, late sixties/early seventies. He is in his barbershop in North City; Dougray Smith: white, late thirties/early forties, landowner and electrician, livers in Tower Grove South; Paul Thompson: black seventeen, high school student; Edna Lewis: black, late fifties/early sixties, a universalist minister, concluding with Louise Hemphill once more.
Different backgrounds, same city but no matter what their background, race, white-privilege or not, they are all struggling to come to terms with the issue of race on its most personal level, their own.
There’s poetry to the language, and the occasional humorous quip, ‘Sir, I don’t steal but if I were a thief / do you really think I would risk MY life or jail for a BOOK? / A BOOK about Leonardo da Vinci?’ is a welcome break to the dialogue, which for the most part is one-dimensional and delivered with a similar tone.
Simple costume changes – for example, a shawl, a jacket, and different settings projected onto the black backdrop distinguish the characters and their locations; yet these techniques serve to unite all the characters who each have their own place in a community yet are brought together by a single incident.
Relateable and current, Until The Flood, confronts the powerful forces of history, race and politics, and will leave you questioning what it will take to change things and accept each other, no matter what our race or place in society is.