Blood At The Root is inspired by the true story of six black teenagers being charged with attempted murder after a school yard fight and bashing of a white kid.
It is essentially a play about racism, but flows freely into many sub-stories in the wider sphere of discrimination to make its important point(s), reflecting both the true tale it is based upon, and this world – where humans are still fighting against each other in one way or another.
Set in a high school, many issues are covered through individual character’s own and shared experiences: A black girl wants to be school president, a white football player is gay, the editor of the school mag is wracked by his own internal racism and desire to avoid, violence becomes a response to fear; and a girl who feels that she is black on the inside and white on the outside is torn between two different worlds.
The tree that the white kids sit under has drawn some black kids to it, and this does not go down too well, as it confronts an unmentioned form of segregation existing in the school.
The image of three nooses hanging from the tree (portrayed by a stunning human sculpture) is a powerful and chilling one. It brutally reminds us of the horrendous KKK past in America, and the persecution and murder of black people in years gone by, and sadly… still at times today.
Awesome hip hop style dance and rapping, slick in-time moves and verse and skillful beat boxing add to, introduce and accompany the stories that (mostly) interweave well.
The pacey style of the production and tight direction, and the energy and considerable acting talent from the large young cast give us a break from the sometimes relentless firing of narrative about the ugliness of racism, homophobia and to a lesser degree, sexism.
It’s all discussion worthy stuff, and not just for teenagers. The high school tale and war between black and white youth offers a great microcosm of the actual world and everyone trying to exist together in it.
While (maybe) it could be a little less didactic, subtlety often making the impact of situations even stronger, it is a current, thought-provoking work, by Dominique Morisseau.
Blood At The Root is a great show for a high school age audiences; and judging by the attention to the stage from the large student audience when I was there, and the terrific applause from them at the end, it struck a chord… big time!