Notes on and quotes from Fallout (2003) Roy Williams
“See dat woman’s face? See how scared? Feel my heart… Better than weed.” (Perry)
Fallout barrels onstage via a brilliant coup-de-theatre – four characters kicking a fifth – who isn’t present – to death. Deftly, Williams sidesteps the awkwardness, the ultimate insufficiency of stage violence (especially something so one-sided, so undignified, so free of grand gestures as a street ambush). Equally, the audience find themselves focusing precisely on the victim, lost in more than one sense – but who will echo throughout the action, as police descend and the kids involved – killers, witnesses and friends – button up.
“One time we had dis new teacher in, yeah. So we all decided to play a joke on him. No one was gonna speak fer the whole lesson, not do any work, juss stare out, see wat happens, wat he does. Everyone was up fer it right, except Kwame. Deh he was, sittin deh, doin his work. He ruined the joke.” (Shanice)
Nailed by the title, this is all aftermath – but that doesn’t equal solving a crime (officially), changing anyone’s character (outwardly), even explaining the act (reductively). Formally, the play reels from step-by-step scenes unfolding for a constant flow between crowds – endless jokes and jockeying for position, only occasional mumbled intimacies.
“Have you noticed, everything’s scaling down? … It’s not news any more. Soon, he’ll just be another dead black kid. Kids round here aren’t made to feel important. They never have. They know a token gesture when they see it.” (Joe)
Williams stays on the surface because his mission is to show how complicated this world is, how patronising to presume that, in writing from above, one can unearth, clean off, and exhibit the cause beneath the effect. When the fabric is embroidered with such rich interchanges as girls menacing the teacher who expelled and thus lost authority over them, inept car thieves as a spectator sport, a father too far gone on his daily booze to put a name to his son and even clashes between the officers investigating, a ‘point’ (as such) would deflate the world.
“Yu made me feel special. I wasn’t juss some yattie to yu. Dwayne comes along, and yu stop noticing me. Yu were too busy impressin him. Yu made me lose faith not just in yu, but in me, man.” (Shanice)
This world has its own, often unspoken rules – nowhere are crime series cliches allowed to overwrite. Emile, ground down by grief, is willing to share his girl (Shanice) with his leader (Dwayne), just for some quiet. There is widespread resentment at the victim’s supposed special treatment by the media. And, at the end of the play, this world’s own logic prevails. Time finally seems to be moving forward again – one character gets his qualification, others leave the area for self-protection, and Dwayne and Shanice step toward each other. Life goes on, for the survivors.
“Yer hauntin me, yu know dat?” (Dwayne)