“Not afraid to tackle thorny issues of race and religion, Young Jean Lee is New York’s most adventurous downtown playwright. She began by setting herself the most uncomfortable challenge she could imagine: to make, as a Korean-American, a work about African-American identity and politics.
“Developed in collaboration with an all-black cast, this biting satire invites audiences on a rollercoaster ride through the assumptions, clichés and distortions that arise when exploring the experience of African-Americans today. Cultural caricatures, from a foul-mouthed comedian to a drug dealer-turned-rapper superstar, are parodied in a series of variety numbers reminiscent of a minstrel show.” – from the Barbican website
From Young Jean Lee’s artistic statement: “When starting a play, I ask myself, ‘What's the last show in the world I would ever want to make?’ Then I force myself to make it.”
American responses to The Shipment:
“Cultural images of black America are tweaked, pulled and twisted like Silly Putty in this subversive, seriously funny new theater piece by the adventurous playwright Young Jean Lee. Ms. Lee, who is Korean-American, consciously set herself the uncomfortable task of creating what she calls a ’black identity-politics show’... Ms. Lee sets you thinking about how we unconsciously process experience – at the theater, or in life – through the filter of racial perspective, and how hard it can be to see the world truly in something other than black and white.” – Charles Isherwood, New York Times
“This is so ingenious a twist, such a radical bit of theatrical smoke and mirrors, that, in rethinking everything that has come before ... we are forced to confront our own preconceived notions of race. And to agree with Lee that we may not live long enough to purge ourselves of them.” – Hilton Als, New Yorker
“Lee confirms herself as one of the best experimental playwrights in America. Her language manages to be both feverishly strange and rigorously intellectual, and she directs her charismatic, talented cast with economy and theatrical dash.” – David Cote, Time Out New York
“[The Shipment explores] just how much skin color continues to frame the way we see each other – even in a post-race, Barack Obama–electing America. It’s an early example of what will hopefully be an avalanche of smart, fearless work that brings the same fresh feel to the artistic conversation about race that is said to imbue today’s politics.” – Kai Wright, The Root
Young Jean Lee is among the most exciting and challenging playwrights working today. In his citation for the 2010 American Academy of Arts and Letters Literature Awards, Academy member Romulus Linney wrote: “Young Jean Lee’s plays are fierce, challenging, brazenly theatrical, and then transcendentally lyrical. Her wit is both biting and hilarious. Her subjects [are] big, bold, and daring, but truthful and humane. In seven years, as author and director, she has created a theater like none other, and with it, a fresh dramatic language for the multi-cultural American stage.”
After an initial phase when I purchased a block of seats for members who prepay, all these seats have now been paid for and allocated – so from this point onwards all members who want to join us will need to book your own ticket direct with the theatre.
If you’re open to sitting next to another member, feel free to mention your seat number in the comments below, for group members who might want to book a neighbouring seat.
Please contribute £1 on arrival (to help defray the approx. £100 per annum that Meetup charges to run a group) – thanks in advance.
In the days immediately prior, I’ll circulate details of arrangements to meet before the performance. We will stay on in the Barbican cafe-bar afterwards, for drinks and a conversation about the play.
Photos by Paula Court / AJ Zanyk