Photography by Manuel Harlan with permission for varsity

August Wilson’s Jitney explores history through characters’ personal relations and business affairs. Wilson’s play focuses on the jitney drivers and other characters at the car service station. The station acts as the focal point through which the audience engages with the character’s most personal, private, and vulnerable moments, and the group dynamics of a jitney station.

“The play touches upon topics of critical consideration”

The play is set from open to close in the car service station, with simple, yet effective, set aesthetics which pay due care to the finer details of the play’s temporal location. Tinuke Craig’s production sees the play’s temporal setting brought to life using effective costuming and the simplest of tools; a few magazines, a radio, a hair-comb. Selective integrations of cinematic projecting delicately outline the borders of the setting, whilst the sound and lighting are used with cleanly limited effect. The play and staging overall offered crisp scene shifts. However, there was one unclear aesthetic disjunction (though a minutia detail) in that the character Youngblood referred to sleeping on a couch overnight as he pointed to a row of seats (there was no couch on set), when in a heated argument with his girlfriend Rena (played by Leanne Henlon).

The play touches upon topics of critical consideration, issues regarding the miscarriage of justice to social perceptions, surrounded by links to race and background. Hints towards these topics range from subtle to overt. Where we witness Youngblood’s (Youngblood/Darnell played by Solomon Israel) accentuated change of tone on the phone in Craig’s production, when attempting to secure his house deal, in turn, we also witness Doub’s (played by Geoff Aymer) more open views on the relationship between black and white people expressed when in conversation with another character.

“The audience shared in the jubilant moments on stage”

The play hosted some particularly phenomenal scenes of artistic venture. The scene highlighting Becker’s (played by Wil Johnson) reunion with Booster (played by Blair Gyabaah), following Booster’s 20-year period of incarceration, was delivered in a remarkably poignant fashion by Johnson. Craig’s production saw Becker utilise the stage spacing in a dramatic demonstration of emotional zest, from standing sturdy to retreating into recovery position on the floor, as the agony felt by the character reverberated through the character’s tone of voice and behaviour. Becker’s physical presence and commanding of space was executed with immaculate, intense, and realistic resonance. As a result, the maturity and composure of performance displayed by Wil Johnson, in his performance as Becker, must be recognised with fervent respect and commendation.

From this scene onwards, the play’s plot development was especially well conveyed. The on-stage celebration in rejoice of the campaign to remain in operation at the station as jitney drivers showed a unified collective between the characters, where so often, conflict, disagreements and gossip had earlier infiltrated any form of solid and whole unity on stage. Indeed, the audience shared in the jubilant moments on stage, inviting the audience to share in the exceptionally thorough curation of the 1970s' era through the musical atmosphere and individual dance moves. Yet, this evocative joyfulness drew in sharp contrast to the shock and tenderness that followed with the news of the character Becker’s demise.

Craig’s choice of technique in the introduction of this critical piece of information to the characters and audience was commendable. Cinematic projection of the streets of the area and the sounding of a siren sound disrupted the characters’ cheerful dancing. The shift in the use of space also bore a serious effect, where the full use of stage space, including dancing on chairs across stage, juxtaposed the minimal reductive postures of the characters, sat with their heads down. The shock factor was reflected in the audience, as the initial lack of discussion amongst characters created an uneasiness and blurriness of factual development, giving the audience a short space of time to assess the developments for themselves, like the characters.


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The structure of the play is noteworthy, as numerous characters on stage are shown to learn of the character Becker’s death, followed by the audience, followed by the character Booster (as the son of Wilson’s Becker). The audience is hereby granted an importance in their relation to the character Becker, which is formulated as preceding Becker’s relation to Booster in significance. As a result, this further exaggerated the distance between the father and son characters as left for realisation to the audience, demonstrated and vocalised in Wilson’s play by his character Becker. As this scene plays out, audience members are left to wonder-What will happen next to the jitney station and the drivers? Wilson’s play leaves the audience with more questions, but with a hint of hope as well when Booster’s character picks up the ringing phone on stage, for the first time.

Jitney is showing at the Cambridge Arts Theatre Thursday 4th - Sat 6 August 2022 at 7pm and Thursday and Saturday 2:30 pm