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by David Lan
Directed by Titas Halder
Designed by Alex Marker
Lighting by James Smith.
Cast: Jacob Anderson. Howard Charles. Peter Landi. Syrus Lowe.
Presented by JQ Productions and Generation 2 in association with Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre

The first ever revival of award-winning playwright David Lan’s first play

12 May – 6 June 2009

“It’s terrible man. I could do anything if I knew the words. Change this country – build a new world.”

Cape Town 1970. Painting a Wall follows the day in the life of four Cape Coloured South African painters, living under apartheid. We follow them in their task of painting public walls government-regulation white. They’ve got one hour to do it and they’ve got to hurry up about it, or risk no pay and harsh punishment. The only thing is…they’ve been given the wrong colour paint…

Stephen Daldry called Painting a Wall a “hugely effective, deeply emotional attack on a political system”, but avoiding political debate, it focuses simply on the painters – Henry, Peter, Willy and Samson – and their jokes, dreams and vivid storytelling as they work together to triumph over the struggles and frustrations of their lives. This production coincides with South Africa’s national elections.

David Lan’s plays include Bird Child, The Winter Dancers, Red Earth, Sergeant Ola, Flight, A Mouthful of Birds (with Caryl Churchill), Desire, Charley Tango and The Ends of the Earth. He has written adaptations of plays by Sobol, Euripides, Verga and Chekhov, as well as opera libretti and films. In 1995/1997, he was writer-in-residence at the Royal Court Theatre. His directing includes Pericles, The Glass Menagerie and ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, as well as documentaries for the BBC before being appointed Artistic Director of the Young Vic in 2000 where he has directed Julius Caesar, A Raisin in the Sun, Doctor Faustus, The Daughter-in-Law, The Skin of Our Teeth, As You Like It and The Soldiers’ Fortune. Painting a Wall was David Lan’s first play, written when he was just twenty-two, and first presented by the Almost Free Theatre and Ed Berman’s Inter-Action at The Howff in Chalk Farm in 1974.

Director Titas Halder is the Literary Associate at the Finborough Theatre, following a spell as a Resident Assistant Director when he assisted on Sons of York and Follow. Other Theatre includes One For The Road (Tabard Theatre) and a rehearsed reading of Speak to Me (Hampstead Theatre). Other Assisting includes Stovepipe (Hightide, Bush Theatre and National Theatre) and The Constant Prince (Oxford Playhouse). As a writer, he trained with the Royal Court Theatre’s Critical Mass programme for black and ethnic playwrights. Writing includes Feeding Me (Paines Plough Later) and Fresh Prince (Oval House 33% London).

Alex Marker is Resident Designer of the Finborough Theatre where his acclaimed designs have included Soldiers, Trelawny of the ‘Wells’ , Hortensia and the Museum of Dreams, Albert’s Boy, Lark Rise To Candleford, Red Night, The Representative, Eden’s Empire, Love Child, Little Madam, Plague Over England, Hangover Square, Sons of York and Untitled.

The cast includes Jacob Anderson, Howard Charles, Peter Landi and Syrus Lowe. Jacob Anderson has just finished appearing in King Lear for Headlong Theatre Company, directed by Rupert Goold, whilst his many other film and TV credits include Spooks (Kudos), Gunrush (ITV), Casualty (BBC), The Things I Haven’t Told You (Tiger Aspect Productions), Primeval (ITV), The Whistleblowers (ITV) and Doctors (BBC); Howard Charles has just finished appearing in the national tour of The Hounding of David Oluwale, and his other credits include The Three Sisters (Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester), Beautiful People (BBC), The American Clock, Twelfth Night, Blue/Orange, The Lunatic Queen, Hamlet and Macbeth (Drama Centre); Peter Landi’s many stage credits include I.D. (Almeida Theatre), Rat Pack Confidential (Nottingham Playhouse), Piaf (York Theatre Royal), Of Mice & Men (Octagon Theatre, Bolton, and York Theatre Royal) and Death of A Salesman (Leicester Haymarket); Syrus Lowe’s many stage credits include Overspill (Soho Theatre and the Churchill Theatre, Bromley), Testing The Echo (Out of Joint), The Sky’s The Limit (The Old Vic), Incomplete And Random Acts Of Kindness, Barbarians, Richard III, Odysseus and Twelfth Night (RADA).

Generation 2 is a project in its infancy which will provide support for young British theatre practitioners who have a foreign family history with no bias towards specific colour or ethnicity. Painting a Wall is their first production with the support of and in association with the Finborough Theatre.

The Press on Painting A Wall
“This is an excellent production of a still-fresh play that deals with questions that are no less relevant today than they were 35 years ago.” The News Line

“Play that’s better than watching paint dry.” Timothy Ramsden, Reviewsgate

“[The play] ends with a really meaningful message about the value of every human being, and as such, is a welcome reminder that we must never again let inhuman regimes into power anywhere.” Philip Fisher, British Theatre Guide

“The Finborough has usually been unique in finding plays of spirited dimensions which have given young companies and directors an opportunity to explore and develop their craft.” Blanche Marvin, London Theatre Reviews

“There’s just one moment of shocking violence – more shock than violence. It forces its way as an expression of a grief announced yet barely spoken about during the play.” Timothy Ramsden, Reviewsgate

“Initially, the banter between them is light-hearted and the political reality creeps into their conversation only surreptitiously, in form of jokes and throwaway remarks. This is the play at its best, portraying the four men with sympathetic realism, and the cast do a great job of bringing them to life.” Vid Simoniti, Music OMH

“As a political testimony Painting a Wall is noteworthy, and as a play it is put together well enough to hold your attention for an hour and a half.” Vid Simoniti, Music OMH

“Weirdly absorbing” Bella Todd, Time Out

“Painting A Wall is really just that - four men painting a wall - and yet really nothing to do with painting a wall…It dresses itself up as one thing very well and yet wanders and probes into all sorts of intriguing, dark and stimulating corners.” Alexandra Carey, Extra Extra

“It is very easy to get caught up in the hypnotising atmosphere of claustrophobic intimacy and paint fumes created admirably by this production.” Alexandra Carey, Extra Extra

“This choice of production has a nice resonance in the shadow of the recent South African elections and certainly serves to remind us, in its more explicit moments, of injustice and atrocity so easily sanctioned in our not so recent past. However, the revival of this play only serves to heighten the sense that it was never really a time-specific political play.” Alexandra Carey, Extra Extra

“Howard Charles’ Willy asserts that the few words he knows are ‘like cages’ around him because they don’t really express anything about his life - in that moment we could be anywhere, today, not necessarily somewhere far from home. This is where the play’s power lies and its simple beauty.” Alexandra Carey, Extra Extra

“I am very inclined to think that this experience - of feeling a play rather than quite hearing or seeing it - is really what Painting A Wall is all about and that it is taking us to a more complicated place than we expect or are usually ready to explore.” Alexandra Carey, Extra Extra

“David Lan, now artistic director of Young Vic, was only 22 when he wrote the play and…it’s a remarkable achievement, for all its apt symbolism and well-written dialogue.” Vid Simoniti, Music OMH

“Lan’s short political allegory is a series of lulls and eruptions reflecting both the rhythms of work and the patterns of acceptance, anger and fuck-it-all humour experienced by anyone struggling to survive under an unjust system” Bella Todd, Time Out

“The pick of the actors, Howard Charles, plays the wittiest and most interesting, Willy.” Philip Fisher, British Theatre Guide

“Particular mention must be made of Jacob Anderson’s wonderful ability to draw focus and laughs with the smallest movement or look, despite having virtually nothing to say throughout!” Alexandra Carey, Extra Extra

“Peter Landi’s grieving Henry was genuinely disturbing and heart-wrenching” Alexandra Carey, Extra Extra

“These four actors, with expert timing and delivery, show us human relationships in extremis” The News Line

“The sentiments of the company are extremely moving. It is another point of honour for the Finborough.” Blanche Marvin, London Theatre Reviews

“What Titas Halder’s detailed production certainly does do is provide us with a whole load of questions to ask and much wondering to do.” Alexandra Carey, Extra Extra

“There is a beautiful stream of timing by the director Titas Halder, a set that is always exciting by Alex Marker and the four actors Jacob Anderson, Howard Charles, Peter Landi, Syrus Lowe who put heart and soul into their performances.” Blanche Marvin, London Theatre Reviews

“James Smith’s scorching lights and Samuel Charleston’s opening reggae sequence add the final touches to the atmosphere of unspoken repression and claustrophobia.” Alexandra Carey, Extra Extra

“The actors create a tangible sense of the enforced intimacy between them and with dialect coaching from Penny Dyer, offer credible South African accents.” Mark Shenton, The Stage

Image copyright Antonio Deruda