By Lynette Goddard (auth.)
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Extra info for Contemporary Black British Playwrights: Margins to Mainstream
Dwayne: Bus his head. Clinton: Bus him up. […] Dwayne: Punch him. (5) However, the boys’ subscription to performing behaviours associated with archetypes of black masculinity becomes manifest when their Black Masculinity and Youth Violence in Williams’ ‘Urban’ Plays 29 public ‘hard-boy’ acts subside in private and they reveal vulnerabilities that suggest a more rounded sense of how their public behaviour can be understood as a response to surviving in a discriminatory society. Emile’s hard-boy act is revealed as a mask that he wears in front of the other boys, and his softer, insecure side is shown when he is alone with Shanice and he admits to having recurring nightmares of seeing Kwame’s face as he dealt the fatal blows.
14 However, such positive responses about the potential impact of the play are questioned by criticisms of the production that suggest that Williams endorses dominant perceptions of black culture through negative representations of youth, criminality and so on. Outspoken black cultural critic Darcus Howe is sceptical about how the play might reinforce stereotypical ideas about black masculinity for the predominantly white Royal Court audience. Howe states, ‘[t]his was not a slice of real life, but of low life sketched by the playwright for the delectation of whites’ (Howe, New Statesman, 30 June 2003), controversially pointing to a real danger of some of the work of the current crop of black British writers whose depiction of ‘urgent’ or ‘topical’ themes appears to fulfil stereotypical expectations about disaffected black youth.
Or is it Stuart, my little brudda, who live two minutes away from my yard, who I never see. Nuh, nuh, it muss be the latest one, dat lickle baby wid the stupid name, Kenisha. Wass my name? (Williams, 2008, 90) Williams is not particularly sympathetic to Manny, whose ‘street corner’ life undoubtedly reflects a history of some black men’s continued social and economic disempowerment in Britain. Portraying Manny as a feckless and irresponsible black man who neglects his fatherly obligations to act as a useful role model for his son gives audiences a further context for understanding Dwayne’s bravado as a response to fatherly neglect.