Typical @ Pleasance Courtyard

Richard Blackwood is phenomenal in this one-man show about the tragic case of Christopher Alder

Review by Eliza Gearty | 19 Aug 2019
  • Typical

What's the cost of a typical night out, for a typical young dad with a night off from his parenting duties? A sore head, a thinner wallet? A couple of embarrassing faux pas' on the dancefloor that your friends won't ever let you forget? 

Richard Blackwood shines as the buoyant, likeable Christopher Alder, in this sparkling script by Ryan Calais Cameron that examines the real life story behind one 'typical' example of police brutality and systematic racism. Blackwood's Alder is everybody's favourite cheesy dad; he's constantly cracking jokes, and loves to dance to tunes by the likes of the Spice Girls and Peter Andre. We meet him as he is getting ready for a big night out, elated by the prospect of a child-free weekend (he has the boys next weekend, he tells us). He's good-natured and a bit guileless – he doesn't know how to chat to women he likes, and often says he has 'a lot of words' but they 'have a way with him', not the other way round. He's very proud of having been a paratrooper for the British Army. And he won't let anything ruin his big night out – not friends cancelling, not a bad DJ, not even the racism directed his way from a white woman he meets in the club. 

The tragedy of the piece, which is light-hearted and comedic for the entire first half, is that Cameron's Alder can't escape the presumptions cast against him as a black man, no matter how religiously he sticks to his Nana's advice – "don't make a scene." Blackwood is absolutely phenomenal as a young, ordinary man just trying to enjoy himself, continuing to calmly stand his ground and attempt to get on with his night out, even as he is racially fetishised and discriminated against. But no amount of dignity and 'not making a scene' could prevent the night from taking the turn it does: the odds are stacked against him from the very start.

The early pub and club scenes, in which we see Cameron's version of Alder boogying and joking around, are a bit overlong, but Blackwood's charismatic and utterly convincing performance keeps it interesting. Otherwise the script is fluid and dynamic, littered with effervescent one-liners that demonstrate the character's jaunty sense of humour perfectly. The ending is one of the most moving I've seen all year.

You'll spend most of Typical laughing but you'll leave emotionally winded; outraged by the fact that racially-motivated, police-inflicted incidents of violence are still – twenty years after the case of Christopher Alder – harrowingly typical. 

Typical, Pleasance Courtyard (Beneath), until 25 Aug, 4.30pm, £9-12