Review: Ear for Eye, Royal Court

A cast of 15 black actors fills the stage. That this itself is worth remarking on is just the tip of why Debbie Tucker Green’s incendiary play about racial injustice feels so important.

Part one comprises several short scenes, spiked with pointed repetitions, exploring attitudes towards prejudice, protest and police brutality across generations in the US and Britain. Which is better, steady progress or furious change?

Some are written in stylishly elliptical dialogue, but best are the rhythmical, lyrical speeches: this is beautiful writing about horrific things, from being tear-gassed to being strip-searched.

Part two is a long, circling debate between an excruciatingly condescending white academic and a young black woman that slowly exposes the contortions made so that white-supremacist killers aren’t deemed terrorists. 

Part three shows film of white people chillingly reading aloud segregation laws and British slave codes.

Two hours without an interval, it’s not an easy watch. Nor should it be. But for all that it may be discomforting, Green’s writing is also exhilarating, her direction penetrating, and the performances poised yet potent. 

This is a riveting piece of theatre that demands you don’t look away.