Matthew Dunster directs the poignant new play at the Young Vic which displays themes of local and universal significance.
The racism of wartime Deep South of America and the associated aggression with knives and guns underlies the poignant growing up of a motherless 12-year old on the cusp of self awareness.
The days pass slowly in the long summer heat for lonely tomboy Frankie (Flora Spencer-Longhurst), her 7 year old John Henry (young Theo Stephenson must be playing himself as he ribs his cousin) and Berenice (American actress Portia) who as housekeeper is a mother substitute for the energetically awkward Frankie.
Frankie's imaginative secure inner world is shattered by the announcement of a wedding – her soldier brother Jarvis is to marry Janice. She changes from a child to feel the conundrum of 'They are the we of me'. She impetuously plans to join the newly-weds. Preparations for the wedding reveal the underlying tensions between Frankie's father and the black people who run his household. Angry white on black abuse was met with shock by the younger section of the audience on press night.
After a long first half the action accelerates. Frankie runs away during a very realistic thunderstorm complete with rain but returns home chastened, really still only a child. John Henry is taken ill, Berenice is to remarry, she is to move home. All that was familiar is changing. But she has a new friendship, a new belonging and hope for the future.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable evening; Frankie and John Henry hold the play together but the assorted company of friends and relations support well in recreating America just after the war.