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Play by August Wilson (1979). Directed by Marion McClinton. Set Designed by David Gallo. Costumes Designed by Susan Hilferty. Lighting Designed by Donald Holder. Sound Designed by Rob Milburn.
The sell out American production of August Wilson's powerful first play comes to the National for 34 performances only.
Set in a Pittsburgh cab company in the late 70's, it tells the story of the men who drive the Jitney cars and their struggle to find honour and accomplishment in a landscape of diminishing possibility.
Cast: Russell Andrews, Willis Burks II, Paul Butler, Anthony V Chisholm, Leo V Finnie III, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Barry Shabaka Henley and Keith Randolph Smith.
On 4 August 2001: It was announced that Jitney would be staged at the Lyttelton Theatre: Previews 11 October, Opens 16 October 2001, Closes 21 November 2001
LYTTELTON Theatre (National Theatre): Previewed 11 October, Opened 16 October 2001, Closed 21 November 2001
Extracts from the reviews:
"Prepare to be blown away. August Wilson's Jitney is a wonderful play, tough, tender, bursting with life, love, humour and pain... The action is set in a run-down minicab office in Pittsburgh in 1977, a time and a place brilliantly evoked by David Gallo's atmospheric design and by the use of soul and blues music, most notably Marvin Gaye's haunting What's Going On?... To describe the play in terms of themes is to reduce it. What you get here, as in Chekhov, is an overriding sense of the apparently random, unmediated sprawl of life itself. And when in the second act Wilson deepens and darkens the piece with the introduction of mortality he notably refuses to give in to facile despair, ending the action instead with a glimpse of grace and hope. The acting in Marion McClinton's gripping production is magnificent... You really mustn't miss this extraordinary, powerful and heart-catching play." The Daily Telegraph
"...Nobody who has laughed at O'Casey's Dublin plays, or been moved by them, should miss Marion McClinton's production. Nor should anyone who values ensemble acting... The final memories you'll take from Becker's office, with its awful sofa and its grubby windows, are of small fry whom Wilson rightly views as significant fry: Barry Shabaka Henley's Doub, with his common sense and his terrible memories of stacking corpses in the Korean War; Anthony Chisholm's Fielding, never without a bottle or a mawkish memory of the wife who left him yonks ago. And there's Stephen McKinley Henderson's Turnbo. Everyone knows the sort of harmless-seeming chap who talks scandal, delights in others' setbacks, stirs trouble, yet takes violent offence. Here he is, immortalised by an excellent actor and a terrific dramatist." The Times
"It's easy to love almost everything about the Stanhope production of August Wilson's Jitney now visiting the National Theatre's Lyttelton stage. Best of all is the acting, which is among America's finest... The set (designed by David Gallo), is first-rate, and our eyes never tire of the different depths and distances it affords you of this interior and the street beyond... Dramaturgically, there is nothing radical about Wilson's work. But he catches and releases the rhetorical music of black urban American talk... Marion McClinton directs. Apart from one spotlit grief scene and maybe three artificial arm gestures, the acting - complex, unpredictable, beautifully integrated, viscerally affecting - is marvellous to watch and to hear." The Financial Times
"If ever there was a theatrical work that, while true to the drabness of its subject, created something magnificent, it is – no, I'm afraid it's not August Wilson's Jitney... Not that Jitney is a terrible play. But it is a desultory one, with little of interest to say, and it is unconvincing in its evocation of the period. Barring a reference to Vietnam and another to Muhammad Ali, Jitney might not only be dealing with the Fifties – it could be a play of that decade... In one of the play's many comic moments, the drivers' boss sternly tells them that customers have a right to expect brakes that work. Too often, however, Jitney keeps a foot on the clutch." The Independent