Human Nurture – Traverse Theatre

Written by Ryan Calais Cameron

Directed by Robb Watt

Rating: 4 out of 5.

What constitutes family? Blood? Comradery? Name? What about race. Human Nurture unpacks the fallout of the baseline questions of nature vs nurture, and how we come together despite differences. Ryan Calais Cameron’s superbly precise and compact production explores the growing tension between two friends, Roger and Harry, who grew up in foster-care.

Roger is a young black man, now living with his Ugandan uncle and about to embark on further education; Harry, a young white man lives alone, struggles to pay the bills and in his spare time takes to TikTok to challenge the woke agendas and the realms of privilege.

For his 18th birthday, Harry is surprised with a visit from his long-time friend, but things aren’t the same. Roger has a girlfriend, a family, prospects, and a new name – Runaku.

Human Nurture has an integrally astute narrative running, where neither boy is a villain or even victim to some degree. Culminating to a powerful clarity for Harry, who finally sees a sliver of light through the walls of his unbeknownst privilege, and for Runaku an understanding, if disagreement, of his friend’s position. The more attempts to disassemble Cameron’s script, the deeper the grasp of the subject matter becomes – far beyond the surface level tensions of the pair. Identity and a lack of play such a pivotal role not only with Runaku, but an under-discussed and prevalent one with Harry.

A guttural, bellyache of the white communities who feel this ostracisation, who bat away the word ‘privilege’ for its connotations with wealth, with a leg-up in life, and Cameron’s script is entirely accurate in the fury and pain thousands in poverty feel in this nation – and tragically who target their ire not at the elite who create & enforce the doctrines, but by those brothers and sisters who they have been informed are the real cause of their suffering.

Additional points come for Cameron’s script for the Dragonball Z and the Fox and the Hound and Dragonball reference. It’s a less than subtle metaphor, the only DVD the pair owned being the Disney classic. But these throw away comments on nostalgia tie more directly into the pair’s refusal to move from their past experiences with one another. As Runaku undergoes a revived understanding of his ancestry, family and heritage – Harry seems even more determined to run from it, to engage with his new friends, whose institutional racism is cemented into their being, and encourages the bitterness within Harry to fester.

The crux of this production lies in the hands of the conflict and rapport between Justice Ritchie and Lucas Button. Rob Watt’s direction enables emotions to unfold naturally, and true to form for young men – they take a while to develop, becoming volatile at the turn of a coin. Justice Ritchie taps into a rawness, an expression of the pain and fury untapped for years in a monumentally powerful occurrence, transforming the more level-headed Runaku into precisely what he is – a young man, seventeen, still coming to terms with who he is.

And Harry is no different. His more outwardly spoken approach to ideologies and his bitterness to a class system is misdirected, but by no means less impactful. Lucas Button has a touch more youthfulness to this movement, bouncing and excited to see his friend, but also rigid when ‘snapping’ to the more traditional narrative of masculine expectations.

There’s an attempt at a symbolic blockade of the two by a series of physical blocks with Tara Usher’s set, but detracts somewhat, becoming more of a distraction than an aid. They lag the pacing, which is otherwise precise to the letter with Neeta Sarl’s on-stage musical accompaniment which seeds itself into the production meticulously.

A contemporary Blood Brothers of sorts, where institutional racism and the failure to recognise and challenge this speaks to a variety of generations, endeavouring not to vilify but to communicate. Human Nurture‘s unique poignancy speaks more than the words that are uttered on stage. Effortlessly communicating its intentions without using the padded time to bloat the production. For a piece under an hour in length, Cameron’s Human Nurture is a testament to the beauty of short plays with concise ideas.

Human Nurture continues at the Traverse Theatre this evening – tickets can be obtained here

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