Underground Railroad Game: extraordinary theatre

Christian Butler

Topics Politics

Underground Railroad Game is an extraordinary piece of theatre playing at the Traverse. Devised and performed by Jennifer Kidwell and Scott R Sheppard, the show fearlessly, and often hilariously, explores the past and present of race relations in America. The show was originally produced by famed New York theatre company Ars Nova. It comes to Edinburgh after an off-Broadway run in which it won Best New American Theatre Work at the Obie Awards. After Edinburgh, it will have a run in London’s Soho Theatre.

The play contrasts two teachers – one white, one black – who reenact scenes from the era of slavery for a middle-school class. There is nothing tokenistic or superficially ‘woke’ about this piece of theatre, however. While delving into unsettling truths, as well as some very dark sexual territory, Underground Railroad Game is also remarkably funny, and is elevated by remarkable performances from Kidwell and Sheppard. Just as remarkable is Taibi Magar’s superb direction, which makes surreal transitions from the 19th century to the classroom to the bedroom with an astonishing array of powerful, unforgettable images.

A must-see at the Fringe, and a must-see-again in London.


Christian Butler is a spiked columnist. Follow him on Twitter: @CPAButler

Underground Railroad Game is at the Traverse until 26 August.

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Topics Politics


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