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David Gow’s Cherry Docs is a seminal work on the subject of racism. It is an unblinking examination of hatred, the explosive effect it has on our society, and the hurdles that confront us as we set about eradicating it. The plot has visceral impact. A Jewish legal aid lawyer, Danny Dunkleman, has been assigned to defend a neo-Nazi Skinhead, Mike Downey, who has been accused of the heinous racially motivated murder of a South Asian immigrant.

 

I don’t like Skinheads, I don’t like neo-Nazis, and I’m not particularly fond of tattoos either. I think the crime you’re charged with is ugly. So I’m not much inclined to like you.

 

The characters pay a high price for their actions, Danny is forced to analyse the limits of his own liberalism, and the demons underlying it, while Mike is challenged to set aside his own prejudices to accept the help he knows he needs to save himself.

 

You’re going to help me. … The kind of person you are. A Liberal, a liberal thinker. Checks and balances and everybody deserves a fair trail… A humanist, liberal Jew. So-you have to do your very best. In an ideal world I’d see you eliminated, in this world I need you more than anyone.

The slender thread that holds out for the promise of true forgiveness heightens their contentious interactions. Cherry Docs is an important play to produce, mythic, almost ‘Greek Tragic’ as it takes the audience into the intense and fiery relationship that develops between these two men as they explore their emotional and intellectual differences.

I am taking you through the eye of the needle. You are the thread.

 

It is mostly when you need something to get you through a difficult phase in life that it is to religion that is found a safe place to return. Danny goes through that is this case when confronted with Mike. The situation between these two men is a real battle and there are no easy moments. Inherently this is about compassion for somebody different. These are ideologies that are polar opposites of each other. There is a weave of humanity and it is a difficult task to make that weaves a tight one.

 

The story is a provocative exploration of the inescapable and insidious presence of racial and religious presence of social, cultural and religious intolerance in our society. A play about cognitive dissonance, Gow isn’t interested in providing simplistic black and white solutions or easy answers; he is more concerned with the shades of grey inherent in the complexities of the human condition. 

His writing takes us past our own assumptions and prejudices into an examination of the very heart of intolerance. He is writing about tribes searching for our roots and where we fit in, history fuelled by over a thousand years of hatred, and love between individuals and humanity.

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