Under Heaven’s Eyes, VAULT Festival

by Laura Kressly

George Floyd’s murder in 2020 was the catalyst for worldwide Black Lives Matter protests against systemic racism. Though at the time white governments, institutions and individuals made loud commitments to fight racial injustice, there has been a lack of meaningful change since then. By drawing on numerous recent and historical acts of violence against Black people, theatremaker Christopher Tajah’s solo performance reinforces just how deeply racism runs in white supremacist societies.

Tajah situates his character in London during lockdown, following the rise of the BLM movement. Worrying about his children who are studying abroad in the US, he records a lengthy warning message to send to them. This character and narrative framing device, though lightly used, makes this a play rather than solely a polemic. He doesn’t hold back on his views, though – the vocal motif, “It has to stop” regularly punctuates the horrific episodes he recounts.

The show would benefit from further dramaturgical shaping and some trimming of the dense text. Additionally, the ending isn’t quite there, and the single instance of Tajah embodying another character could be better integrated into the rest of the script. Even without changes, this would be a fantastic show to tour to secondary schools. It references many events from Black history in both the UK and US, and fights the racism that it so insidious in this country.

The strong central performance and vital message are deserving of widespread dissemination. Though further development would greatly benefit the play, at it’s core there’s a lot of potential and importance.

Under Heaven’s Eyes runs through 12 February.

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