BAFTA winning writer John Foster and Bournemouth-based Doppelganger Productions present a harrowing play entitled RIDE! on 27 January at Lighthouse.

Based on a true story, the play is about racism and highlights the 1998 incident in which the African-American James Byrd Jr was taken by three members of the Ku Klux Klan and murdered. Here John Foster gives us a little background to the play and why he created it in response to the question - why racism?

Like many others, I was horrified by the murder of James Byrd during the Clinton era.  It was a sequence of events which haunted me for many years and in my imagination, I identified wholly with James and what he must have suffered.  In coming to write about him, I wanted to express through a vivid impressionistic style what it was like, especially what it felt like, to be in that situation – the actual visceral experience expressed in a moment-by-moment collage of words and sounds.  I wanted it to be physical and immediate, a stream-of-consciousness rendering which would impact dramatically upon audiences.

At the same time, I didn’t want the play to be placed within the context of a historical reconstruction, a little bit of horrifying history.  Nor was I seeking to write a dramatised documentary of the story but to deploy James Byrd’s murder as a metaphor for hate crime and racism.  Therefore, I use the central events of the story, but fictionalise the actual narrative by bringing it into our contemporary world and create my own characters instead of dramatising the actual historical ones.  This frees the drama to look at the wider issues of racism in the world of Donald Trump, Brexit and dramatically rising hate crime.

Most of all, though, I wanted to explore what it would be like to be subjected to this horrific kidnap, assault, torture and murder.  The physical pain and fear and the curious mystery of why people do this in the name of racial superiority is the main thrust of the play.  By setting the story in the modern day and fictionalising the narrative, I am able to allude to the trail of racism and cruelty through the ages, its various forms and diversity of its perpetrators and victims.

The play is saying – this happened then, but it is also happening now in the violence and murder of black people – with the dramatic effect of a two-way mirror aligning past with present.


You can catch Ride! when it comes to the Sherling Studio at Lighthouse on 27 January.

Published 22 January 2018