One of the productions presented by Soho Theatre at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe is sure to catch the eye of many an audience member. Typical arrives at the Pleasance Courtyard with an already impressive pedigree; written by the award-winning Ryan Calais Cameron and starring Richard Blackwood.
It is based on the true story of Christopher Alder, a Black British former soldier who sets off on a typical night out, but tragically dies while in police custody. The play is of course sending out a bigger message about the Black community, and the struggles men in particular face. Alder’s real-life story is indeed powerful, and should serve as a compelling start point for this narrative, yet it never seems to fully accomplish what it sets out to do.
Told through a form of lyrical prose, which often sees lines being repeated, it utilises the vernacular of the community. Richard Blackwood does give an incredible performance, and it is his presence which makes Typical worth watching.
At no point are we told that this character we are watching is actually Christopher Alder, and perhaps the character is a wider representation of the Black Male community, but that causes frustrating little inconsistencies, all the clues point towards this being Alder’s final night out, one friend can’t make it because he wants to watch Jet on Gladiators (Jet had left the show two years previously with a back injury), while our protagonist then goes on to talk about Google, a service that didn’t exist until five months after Alder died.
Our protagonist also comes across as a man much older than Alder’s 37 years, which again makes it difficult for the audience to fully engage. These are probably minor points of course, but when the message is so important it doesn’t need anything to distract from it. And this message is vitally important, the most impactful part of the whole piece is the CCTV footage which is shown right at the very end, but unless you go in with a prior knowledge of Alder’s situation the remaining 55 minutes feels under developed.
Typical is certainly full of good intentions, and it did leave me wanting to know more about Christopher Alder, and others like him who have lost their lives unnecessarily, and while it tackles vital themes, it loses its audience along the way.