Ride John Foster’s shocking and thought-provoking play about race-hate 

Ride: The Sherling Studio, Lighthouse, Poole (27th January, 2018)

This shocking and thought-provoking new drama from BAFTA winning playwright John Foster examines the mindless bigotry of race-hate and asks one simple but seemingly answerable question: Why?

Based on the unprovoked real-life murder of an African American by three members of the Ku Klux Klan, Ride explores the terror of the victim and the blind hatred of his attackers.

Such horrendous incidents should of course have long been consigned to the dustbin of history but that particular attack took place just 20 years ago. Worse still, in Trump’s America the extreme right is once again on the rise and in Britain racial tensions are rife with a 41 per cent increase in hate crimes since the Brexit referendum of 2016. Set against this social backdrop, Ride, is a terrifying play, about a world ill distressingly ill at ease with itself.

A single actor, Shaquille John, plays a fictionalised version of a man singled out for an almost indescribable death simply because of the colour of his skin. It’s an extraordinary piece of drama as this everyman - a Fed Ex delivery guy called Ethan going about his daily life - is picked up off the street by three booze-sodden, red-neck throwbacks and told he’s ‘coming for a ride.’

His terror as he’s bundled into their van, beaten, abused, handcuffed and driven to a place of execution is brought to shocking life through Foster’s densely but beautifully written text and John’s powerful physical performance which includes evoking the twisted and hateful characters of his attackers. With minute observation we discover the very smell of hatred and fear.

Directed by Charmaine K. Parkin and with music and additional speech and sounds from Ben Waller, Ride conveys Ethan’s fear, pain and emotional turmoil as he realises that he’s going to be lynched. It’s the stuff that Billie Holiday (Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees) and Bob Dylan (They’re selling postcards of the hanging) sang about decades ago. In fact his tormentors have an even worse fate in mind.

It is a terrifying play which was, almost inevitably, performed before a relentless white, mainly middle-class audience with, I would guess, broadly liberal values. Will it start a meaningful debate? Let’s hope so. 

Jeremy Miles









© Jeremy Miles 2022