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Theatre Review Pointed polemic from suspended Labour activist

The Lynching
Friends' Meeting House, Manchester/Touring

JACKIE WALKER is now well-known because of her suspension from the Labour Party over alleged anti-semitic comments.

But this one-woman show, at least initially, is very much the story of her family and a history and tradition of fighting for civil rights.

It starts in the US, where her Jamaican mother Dorothy Brown and Jewish father Jack Cohen were involved in the civil rights movement in the 1950s. Walker recounts the moving story of her parents holding hands as they sit on a segregated bus in the US south while being beaten by the police.

Walker was born in 1954 and two years later McCarthyism led to her mother being deported back to Jamaica with her children. Her father was married to someone else by this time and disappears from a story which Walker brings to life using song and readings.

It's a shocking and sorrowful narrative as we follow her mother and siblings from the US to Jamaica and finally to Britain, where they arrived in 1959.

But it is also a testament to how people can survive oppression. Walker and her siblings ended up in the care system after her mother’s early death, yet she overcame this disadvantage and became a teacher.

The second half, more like a separate show, is less successful in its impact. It's part of Walker's personal campaign against her suspension from the Labour Party to which she has devoted much of her life and she summons the spirit of her mother to act as her defence lawyer, with the audience acting as court participants.

While this may play well to like-minded people, for those outside Labour circles such as myself, the complexities of internal party battles may well pall.

They made me ask: “Why stay in a party that would treat you so badly?”

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