Joakim Daun’s The Incident is a timely one-act play about structural racism in Sweden but this tale of a relationship between Jan (David Weiss), an ambitious teacher, and his girlfriend Monica (Cassandra Hercules), a Zimbabwean who’s come to Sweden to complete her PhD, could be about any mixed-race couple in the Western world.
Both work in a local school where Jan has a senior position, but Monica encounters numerous challenges from difficult students and parents, who she thinks have taken against her because she’s black. When Monica tells Jan about this, he dismisses the idea and tells her she’s exaggerating. Even when a complaint is made against Monica and it’s obvious that it was motivated by race, Jan can’t see it, or the rest of the casual racism she experiences every day.
After Jan gets a new job as a headmaster in another school, and gives Monica a job there, another complaint is made against her. One so serious that an independent body needs to make a ruling on the matter. And to make things worse, a local paper finds out about an incident that happened when Monica was 13, where she beat up and badly injured a boy at her school. Could she, as the newspaper implies, have a problem with anger management? Or is it, as she says, anti-immigrant and racist sentiment from her pupils and their parents?
The play ends with a ruling on the incident, but also with a resolution to Jan and Monica’s relationship. His naivety about the many “incidents” that Monica has had to endure has driven a wedge between them, while she just wants to be with people who understand what she’s going through. It’s a common point of conflict in many mixed-race relationships and the contrast between the early scenes in this play, where the pair fall, joyfully in love, with the latter ones, where they’re fighting, is stark.
The only problem with this play, though, is the sheer number of short scenes, necessitating a change of setting or costume between them. This would be fine in a TV show or film, but on stage it’s more difficult to get right. A smaller number of scenes or quicker changes between them would have worked better.