The White Card at HOMEKristy Stott, Theatre Editor
Written by Claudia Rankine and directed by Natalie Ibu, The White Card is a new play that poses the question: how does society progress when whiteness remains invisible. The play opens at Northern Stage before embarking on a three-month tour. Luckily for us, this urgent and intelligent new work visits HOME for six performances.
Written during a period of unrest in racially divided America, just before the murder of George Floyd and on the cusp of the worldwide Black Lives Matter protests, Rankine’s one-act play brings debate around white privilege, cultural appropriation and race.
Rankine’s one-act play brings debate around white privilege, cultural appropriation and race.
The play opens with a dinner party thrown by Virginia and Charles, an influential white couple, for a talented Black artist named Charlotte. With tensions running high, difficult conversations about art and the representation of race begin to uncover some uncomfortable truths over the course of the evening.
The second half of the play is set 12 months later in Charlotte’s art studio and centres around a conversation between Charlotte and Charles as they confront overarching issues around art and racism.
The work raises questions about knowledge and truth, and its relevance.
The White Card could be described as a ‘live debate play’ – rich in conversation, it circles resolution and offers audiences the opportunity to take a different viewpoint of a feeling or situation they may have experienced. The play encourages discussion around philanthropy and the white male patriarchy; white privilege conditioning, Black injustices and racial divides. Raising questions about knowledge and truth, and its relevance, the play asks us all to join the conversation and experience a new perspective.
Of the play, director Natalie Ibu says, “Although set in America, the play is just as relevant in the UK – a country where a young Black girl can be strip-searched at school or a Black man can be stopped and searched simply for wearing a coat on a sunny day – I think there’s never been a more urgent need for this play and the discussions it will force about race in the UK.”
Following the success of Steve McQueen’s BBC film series, Small Axe (2020), documenting personal stories of racism and discrimination in London, The White Card seeks to push the discussion around race even further – offering an interpretive space for the unseen and unspoken, to be seen and heard.
Writer, Claudia Rankine explains the relevance of the play, “For me, The White Card is an invitation to have the difficult and necessary conversations about the discomfort we usually negotiate silently when it comes to race relations. The goal is not to get rid of the discomfort, but to increase the possibility for intimacy inside new narrative frameworks.”
The White Card pushes the discussion around race further – offering an interpretive space for the unseen and unspoken, to be seen and heard.
Claudia Rankine is a poet, playwright and professor of English and African American Studies at Yale University. One of America’s leading writers on racism, her bold, poetic work Citizen: An American Lyric (2014) ranked as a New York Times Bestseller in 2015 and won the 2014 National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry. The White Card is her first published play.