Review: I’ve Always Liked the Name Marcus

Review: I’ve Always Liked the Name Marcus

Mixed race is not necessarily a comfortable ethnic identity. You only have to think of the Horlicks the Royal family made of Meghan Markle’s background to know that. But Matthew Sharpe has created a stimulating piece of autobiographical theatre in I’ve Always Liked the Name Marcus. It launched the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival last night at The MAC.

This autobiographical piece opened with Matthew potting basketballs with some ease. The sport was his escape from growing up stereotyped and called names like King Kong at school. One neat repeated device Matthew deploys well is of creating a scene of heroism, where he felled his tormentors, or of romance, where he squired his first potential girlfriend, then telling us it didn’t actually happen like that. Well no, the bully backed down when challenged and the girl and he, sweetly, ‘spooned’ all night.

Screens and film footage are well used throughout and there is a positive cartoon ish side to this tale of Sharpe’s search for his part-northern Irish, part-Jamaican identity. The trip to Jamaica for a family funeral is well done.

Although Tim Brannigan is probably pithier on the subject of race, Matthew is affecting when he wonders, at different moments, whether he is “too white” or “not black enough”, the latter in an audition. For Matthew is a trained actor which makes his occasional lapses of diction surprising.

But the evening, directed by Patrick J O’Reilly for Tinderbox, achieved its aim and made me think about all kinds of casual prejudice, including racism and sexism. I emerged a keener feminist and enjoyed the final gag – “Yes, I have a big dick!” in reference to a previous riff on racial stereotyping. It got a big laugh.

Jane Hardy

I’ve always Liked the name Marcus runs until May 5 at The MAC

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