The Long Road South Review: Civil Rights And Wrongs

The Long Road South, King’s Head Theatre ★★★☆☆

By Stuart Black Last edited 30 months ago
The Long Road South Review: Civil Rights And Wrongs The Long Road South, King’s Head Theatre 3
Imogen Stubbs, Michael Brandon, Krissi Bohn, Lydea Perkins, Cornelius Macarthy

The King’s Head Theatre in Islington may be an above-the-pub venue, but it’s known for punching above its weight with strong casts and bold programming. Its new show, The Long Road South, is a good example, featuring Imogen Stubbs (or Lady Nunn if you will) and Michael Brandon (whose TV career stretches from Episodes, right back to Dempsey And Makepeace). And they bring impressive acting heft to a claustrophobic and semi-autobiographical story by Paul Minx that mixes Southern Gothic and the Civil Rights Movement.

The action takes place in a stifling garden in Indiana in 1965, the last day of a summer season for two black servants, Grace and Andre, before they head south to join up with the marches for voting rights and a trip to see Andre’s daughter. But can the family they work for do without them, and are they willing to let them go?

Minx entangles relationships and responsibilities so that small misundertandings and petty manipulations trigger increasingly significant consequences. A dinner scene becomes almost unbearably frustrating as the servants try to pry the money they are owed from the patriarch of the house, who turns a deaf ear while he munches on his corn and slowly gets drunker and surlier. It’s a fine performance from Brandon, shuttling between doting daddy to fire-spitting bully within seconds, this unpredictability keeping the outcome on a knife-edge. Stubbs is also excellent as his alcoholic wife, wringing slurred humour from every line, before heading into tragic self-pity as the anaesthetising liquor wears off.

Cornelius Macarthy is very good as Uncle Tom-ish servant Andre, still stuck in the pre-Civil Rights mindset even as he struggles to defy his white employers. Lydea Perkins as frisky nymphet Ivy and Krissi Bohn as Grace complete this strong ensemble, adding to the pressure cooker environment by making demands on poor Andre and increasing the sense of a looming meltdown.

The Long Road South runs at the King’s Head Theatre, 115 Upper Street N1 1QN, until 30 January. Tickets £15-£25. Londonist saw this play on a complimentary ticket.

Last Updated 18 January 2016