Shanean, 16

Personally, I felt that a lot of people were shocked to see a bunch of black kids walk into the theatre. From the moment we arrived I felt people staring and giving confused looks; one man almost had a heart attack when my friend’s empty Coke can accidentally fell next to him. Yet this situation of discomfort inadvertently helped me understand the play more and feel more connected to the character of Cynthia. Growing up as a child of two black Caribbean parents I have heard time and time again about the struggles that my parents and grandparents have had to go through so that I could have a decent life. I have the blessing of a free education whilst my aunts had to choose between them who would get to go to school. So, when Cynthia moved up to the first floor in the factory, I was happy for her, because she finally got the chance to prove herself and get somewhere with her life. To Cynthia, she was moving on up to help her friends, Jessie and Tracey, who were still on the ground. But from their perspective, she was reinforcing the dichotomy between the workers and the bosses. They felt that Cynthia sold them out, because as soon as she moved up everything started to change – the way Cynthia dressed and behaved at worked made them feel as if she really had just traded their friendship for a new job. She even had hand cream, could wear high heels to work and enjoy the air con whilst sitting down. But despite that, I don’t believe that Tracey had any right to say that Cynthia had only got the job because she’s black. It just goes to show that she wasn’t a real friend at all.

“ I felt that a lot of people were shocked to see a bunch of black kids walk into the theatre.”

I understand why Tracey was angry, but she took her anger out on the wrong people. As she cannot physically take her anger out on those actually in power, she took it out on the individual, who unfortunately was Oscar. They were all hurt by Oscar crossing the picket line but, in my opinion, Oscar didn’t owe them anything. He didn’t betray them if there was no loyalty there in the first place. From the first scene in the bar Oscar was always silent in the background – a presence that was always there but that nobody paid any attention to. And although he didn’t know them that well, he still tried to see if they were kind enough people who would help him get a job in the factory. But all they saw was that he wasn’t one of them so not one of them tried to help him. I think that Oscar represents the status of immigrants in America. The whole play was used to represent life in America and when the song ‘This is America’ played at the end, and we all started singing, – and by we, I mean the bunch of black kids that I felt so many people were shocked to see – the topics raised in the play resonated with me more than all those people that had paid like forty something pounds for their tickets. That song told me that all this discrimination and anger and poverty is still in America today, almost 10 years after the play is set, that that is the America that people still live in.