By Lynette Goddard (auth.)
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Extra resources for Contemporary Black British Playwrights: Margins to Mainstream
Escaping ‘The Hood’ – youth Crime, violence and retribution: Little Sweet Thing Williams’ Little Sweet Thing (Eclipse Theatre Company at the Hampstead Theatre, 2005; dir. Michael Buffong) revisits many of the issues that are seen in Fallout, focusing particularly on the temptations and pressures facing a racially mixed group of teenagers whose world revolves around criminality, drug dealing and petty turf wars. Williams effectively captures the precariousness of an environment where the characters lack status in conventional terms, and thus seek to gain respect and recognition through winning a race or scoring a goal and on a more extreme level through wielding guns and using violence to express their power and dominance over others.
10 Clinton: Kick him in the head, kick him! […] Gwan, Emile! Perry: Walk barefoot, yu rass. Clinton: Like you do in Africa. […] 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.
Characters in Williams’ plays are often searching for a sense of belonging, which the teenage boys in Fallout try to achieve by being in the estate gang, sharing codes of dress, language and behaviour. They are costumed almost identically in casual clothes and trainers, speak the same colloquial ‘black talk’, an ‘urban patois’ (Sawyer, Observer, 10 February 2008) street talk infused with African American and Jamaican street slang language, and share a reverence for proving their ‘manhood’ by inducing fear through indiscriminate violence and petty crimes.