The Black and White Minstrels

.......Until recently, C.P. Taylor has been a prophet without honour in his native Glasgow where, years ago, The Citizens' flatly turned down Bread and Butter. Only the Traverse would stage his work - Happy Days Are Here Again, Allergy, and much later, Lies About Vietnam, Truth About Sarajevo were produced there. Now, for a change, he has two new plays running simultaneously in Scotland. Me at the Citizens', Glasgow, and The Black and White Minstrels at the Traverse. Both are heavily subjective, the former satirically, the latter more seriously so. Me, with Al Mancini's visually creative personality to get it airborne........thumbs its nose, animated cartoon-style, at the Glasgow academic establishment who turned CP down for a fellowship in creative writing in favour of a more 'acceptable' older man.............the play is entertaining in its exploration, with wit and more humility than some people will admit, of the hang-ups of a talented Jewish writer struggling for acceptance, and not merely lip-service.


The same figure, no longer near-caricature but now realised with the delicate assurance of a master etcher, is the core of The Black and White Minstrels. In an incredibly disorganised menage (there's more than a hint, here, of Allergy) two girls and a young man revolve round a self-centred, neurotic writer in a precarious equilibrium. This, it seems, has been disturbed by an alien satellite - the black girl student Atara who rents a spare room. There isn't really much plot, and in retrospect the play's main shortcoming would seem to be Taylor's unwillingness or inability to reach resolution on what purports to be his principal theme - the hate/love attraction between Cyril and Atara. What he does do superbly, though - and it is no mean feat - is bring alive the two male characters, who are, you feel, like opposite sides of the autobiographical coin. Alan Howard's playing of Cyril is marvellously perceptive and intelligent, suggesting myopic, articulate insecurity of the character, the wit, the debilitating self-awareness, the clownishness and all......

The Black and White Minstrels

Cordelia Oliver.

Plays and Players, August, 1972.

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