FringeReview UK 2023
Clyde’s follows Sweat, also seen at the Donmar in 2018, which won Lynn Nottage her second Pulitzer Prize. A play of redemption, indeed love. Clyde, whether she wishes to or not, has opened a space through which others can walk. And just maybe, Clyde herself might walk there too. Outstanding.
Written by Lynn Nottage Directed by Lynette Linton, Set & Costume Designer Frankie Bradshaw, Lighting Designer Oliver Fenwick, Sound Designer George Dennis, Composer Duramaney Kamara,
Hair, Wigs & Make-up Designer Cynthia De La Rosa, Movement Director Kane Husbands, Voice and Dialect Coach Hazel Holder, Dialect Coach Aundrea Fudge, Casting Anna Cooper CDG. Production Dramatherapist Awbriya King
Production Manager Marec Joyce, Costumer Supervisor Lisa Aitken, Associate Costumer Supervisor Amy Boulton, Props Supervisor Charlotte King, Hair, Wigs, Hair and Make-Up Manager Keisha Banya
Resident Assistant Director Adam Karim, Assistant Set & Costume Designer Phoebe Shu-Ching Chan, Assistant Lighting Designer Virginie Taylor, Assistant Sound Designer Cordane Richardson.
CSM Lizzie Donaghy, DSM Anna Sheard, ASMs Shaneice Brown, Francesca Osimani, SM Intern Lottie Ann Middleton, Junior ASM Taomi Simms, Production Photographer Marc Brenner
Till December 2nd
“I heard they got truckers drive miles outta their way for sandwiches.” Lynn Nottage’s 80-minute Clyde’s – directed by Lynette Linton at the Donmar – is the name of a last-chance truck-stop shop. It follows Sweat, seen here in 2018, which won Nottage her second Pulitzer Prize.
It’s where ex-prisoners are given a chance of redemption by the eponymous Clyde (Gbemisola Ikumelo), tyrannical boss who hides whatever compassion she has under more layers than the sandwiches presided over by Zen-like Montrellous (Giles Terera).
“None of us know what Montrellous does or how he does it, but all I know is you gotta respect it” declares Rafael (Sebastian Orozco)
to newbie Jason (Patrick Gibson) who has anger issues. Clyde unfortunately doesn’t.
Yet we first see Clyde and Montrellous locking over a story he’s just told about his life. Clyde would have “Walked the fuck away” dissing Montrellous’ creation by stubbing her cigarette on it and later more shocking things. Yet that story we actually hear at the end: its reveal is shocking in another way.
Clyde and Montrellous are frequently offstage, and arrive as visitations, so the other dynamic – between edgy frustrated Jason and the two old hands, and between Rafael and Letita (Ronke Adékoluéjo), known as Tish, play out.
Gibson was also in Sweat and proves ideal: his raw-bone stare whilst radiating trigger feelings show you why Jason’s damage landed him in jail, and where he might be headed. Jason’s clumsy, messy even disgusting way at the beginning is a classic apprenticeship, till he too aspires to win his colleagues’ trust and Montrellous’ approval. If only Clyde would stop almost sadistically flirting with him.
Orozco’s Rafael is a dance of a role: full of advice but with a weakness too, sashaying between wisecracking to Jason and different respects elsewhere, a revealing study of someone who can quietly be pushed off the rails ;and the one person who’s pushed him guesses. Orozco’s words flow like a boppy ballet of bon-mots.
That’s because Rafael’s hung up on in Tish in a Chekhovian way, and you think Masha-like she has no feelings for him. Tish though has served time for breaking into a chemist’s to provide for her daughter and got momentarily greedy for anti-depressants.
No-one till now has ever been kind to Tish: she doesn’t know how to respond. Except with comic raillery and occasional outrage. Nevertheless she betrays her true feelings in fury when she realises something new about Rafael, and the effect’s miraculous.
Adékoluéjo’s edgy defensive way with her two colleagues blisters out in ferocious put-downs, tempered with mutual reverence for Montrellous.
Ikumelo’s magnificently unsympathetic role is quite unrelenting. Dangerous when she plays – she never smiles and dislikes it in others – Clyde has opened a space of second chances but lets everyone know it: all the time. She tells Montrellous early: “My mama used to stick me with her fingernail… just to see if I’d cry… I’m not indifferent to suffering. But I don’t do pity.” Ikumelo sticks to this. Every time you think Clyde might just melt like the cheese on white bread, she snaps out of it.
Montrellous though springs surprises, none more so than the two he reveals at the end, which provide the climax. They’re understated, around a pickle and a confession, but here they carry a world.
Terera has wrought of Montrellous a high priest of his art: a man who never aspired to a special skill, unlike his brother as we find out; but has discovered inner peace, skill, a vocation. The play’s movement – Kane Husbands’ directing – creates a ballet of bread-layering. The team aspire to Montrellous’ words: “It’s a kind of ritual, we speak the truth. Then, let go and cook.”
The way Terera raises a knife like a hieratic butcher at a sacrifice is both comic and hypnotic. You believe in the beauty and salvation in “the perfect sandwich”, platonically out of reach. Montrellous’ colleagues each present an innovation and his “it’s not bad” casts them to unimaginable depths. Terera brings his ‘could do better’ like a whisper, so gently: but they’re all attuned to every pitch Montrellous brings.
The status of a sandwich is helped in Oliver Fenwick’s lighting where – amongst other effects – it glows under the individual preparation counters in Frankie Bradshaw’s grungy but clean working kitchen: a thing of gaunt beauty where real food’s prepared all the time. The gantry above sporting the Clyde’s sign and other signs reminds us slightly of the set of Trouble in Butetown seen here earlier this year. Duramaney Kamara’s composition thrubs low-key in George Dennis’ discreet sound. There’s almost a spectral quiet at times.
Crucially though it’s used just once as Clyde herself appears alongside her own sign: both precarity and pride totter next the neon. It’s a marvellously extravagant gesture.
Ultimately though this is a play of redemption, indeed love. Clyde, whether she wishes to or not, has opened a space through which others can walk. And just maybe, Clyde herself might walk there too. Outstanding.