Clybourne Park, AUB students at Studio Theatre, Arts University Bournemouth

BRUCE Norris’s sharply funny play Clybourne Park had its local premiere with two casts of students from AUB, director Sean Aita drawing performances from the young actors that it’s hard to imagine being bettered by the starriest of casts.

The play is a spin-off from Raisin in the Sun, highlighting the inherent racism of communities, in this case suburban Chic­ago. The play is set in the same house both after the Korean War in 1959 and in 2009. The cast of seven plays characters in both scenarios, as the years have turned the tables but not changed the attit­udes.

AUB is winning a well-deserved reputation for its collaborative productions, which bring student actors, back-stage crews, designers, costume makers and make-up artists together.

Phoebe Sharman assists Sean Aita  with Alex Barras designing the clever set, Isabella Farina the costumes, Jazz Roy the hair and make-up, Neill Brinkworth the lighting and Doug Cockle the fight instructor.

This is an ensemble show, the first part set in what is now history for many of the audience and all the cast, and the second in a changed, politically correct 21st century.

I saw “cast Y” with Peter Rafferty as the tensely haunted Russ and the blundering Dan, Zara Paige as the denying Bev and the upwardly mobile but insensitive Kathy, Yvonne Gundry as the wise Francine and the newly entitled Lena, Rhys Butler as the emollient Jim and the exasperated Tom (and more), Fola Adeyoola as Albert and Kevin, two helpful, positive and likeable men, one of whom reaches a breaking point, Toby Constad in pitch perfect performances as Karl and Steve, two recognisable characters whose ingrained attitudes span the decades, and Sorcha Martin, totally convincing as the prof­ound­ly deaf Betsy and the whining Lindsey.

This is a play that makes the audience squirm as they laugh. Norris’s snapshots are frighteningly accurate. The more it changes, the more it stays the same.

I cannot imagine it better done than by these students, and if anyone is looking for someone to play Robert Zimmerman, they need look no further than the mercurial Rhys Butler.

Congratulations to all concerned in this brilliant production.


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