The title might sound like it's about someone doing a runner after a one-night stand but Joe Turner's Come and Gone is actually the second in August Wilson's ten-play cycle about the lives of black Americans in the 20th Century, one play for each decade. It follows a couple of weeks in the home of Seth (Danny Sapani) and Bertha (Adjoa Andoh) who rent out rooms to people some of whom stay for weeks, others for years. The latest arrival is the mysterious Herald Loomis (Kobna Holdbrook-Smith) who, accompanied by his daughter, says he's searching for his wife.
Like all Wilson's plays this is set in Pittsburgh but you wouldn't know if you didn't look at the script because one recurring theme is that everyone in the house seems to come from somewhere else, most of them having lived in many parts of America post-emancipation, and the play is about most of them seeking an identity. David Lan's production starts slowly but builds up a good head of steam and is well-acted by the whole cast. The in-the-round set by Patrick Burnier is dominated by a bridge-like lighting rig, which lighting designer Mike Gunning has flash lights across the stage between scenes, indicating the passage of time but also adding an eerie quality to a play whose characters often reference the supernatural. There's some comic moments lightening the tension, many from the rather hot (if it wasn't for a dodgy hairdo) Nathaniel Martello-White as the womanising Jeremy. An unexpected source of peace in the household comes from a long-term resident, Bynum (Delroy Lindo, who originated the role of Herald on Broadway in 1988,) an old man who sees himself as some sort of voodoo priest and is prone to having "visions." Certainly an impressive play, and a strong production.
Joe Turner's Come and Gone by August Wilson is booking until the 3rd of July at the Young Vic.