I’m a big fan of Eddie Izzard – his acting, comedy and extreme marathon running (43 full marathons in 51 days!). Recently while visiting New York, DeeAnna and I had a chance to see him in the new Mamet play Race at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Broadway.
Izzard plays Jack Lawson, a lawyer at a successful firm who is called upon, alongside his black colleagues, to represent a white client (Richard Thomas) accused of raping a black woman. As Mamet explains, “In my play a firm made up of three lawyers, two black and one white, is offered the chance to defend a white man charged with a crime against a black young woman. It is a play about lies…All drama is about lies. When the lie is exposed, the play is over.”
At first glance this appears to be a mystery play about a simple lie by witnesses around where the sequins are from the red dress worn by the accuser in the hotel room where the alleged attack took place. But as their planned case comes together in light of the accused’s blundering press release, issues of racism and sex come to the fore as internal assumptions around what is right and wrong between races and gender clash both within and outwith the lawyer’s office. Essentially, Mamet illustrates a world where there is nothing a white person can say to a black person without feelings of being patronized, upset or simply wrong being incurred. He also demonstrates how this happens between men and women.
So how can online therapists, in relation to not necessarily knowing the colour of their client’s skin, ensure that their internal assumptions and biases around cultures and races (born of upbringing and social environment) do not infect the therapeutic work, either by self-reflection or in Supervision? The written word with clients can often seem stark without tone-of-voice and gesture, so how easy is it to misunderstand a remark made in innocence that a person of a different culture misunderstands as being racist? If the remark is deemed as racist by the client, is this the case? Or is it the case that the therapist is telling himself or herself lies about their attitude to differences in culture, as is the case in Mamet’s play with Lawson’s self-assurance? How important is it to examine and challenge one’s own internal racism in light of not knowing the clients race?
So, Mamet’s play brings a lot of questions about society’s attitudes to difference of race and gender. As well as being very witty in parts and challenging in others, I recommend it as a thought-provoking piece of theatre, as a therapist, an theatre goer, or even as just an Izzard fan!