by Katori Hall.

Guildhall Theatre To 9 April 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat 26 March, 2 April 2.30pm 30 March, 6 April 1.30pm.
Audio-described/BSL Signed 2 April 2.30pm.
Runs 1hr 35min No interval.

TICKETS: 01332 255800.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 23 March.

Rich drama finely revived in a little room.
The Mountaintop’s seen a meteoric rise for Memphis-born Katori Hall. Her two-hander went from a small London Fringe venue (admittedly, the excellent Theatre 503) to the West End (admittedly, the small Trafalgar Studio 2). Back in the USA it’s due a star-cast Broadway production. Not bad for a young Black American.

It could add her to the video-montage hall of fame ending her play, as it shoots over four decades of Black American achievement from the 1968 death of Martin Luther King to the election of Barack Obama.

Hall doesn’t miss out on the set-backs for Black Americans, but King’s amazement at what’s happened since his death is paralleled by audience knowledge of how improved hotel bedrooms now are, compared with designer Simon Kenny’s functional en suite setting.

Finally, Ariyo Bakare’s King steps out of this cramped 1968 reality towards a suddenly-illuminated auditorium in Tom Attenborough’s Derby revival to ask who will carry the torch for Civil Rights. Despite her own success, Hall’s well-aware the struggle isn’t over.

It’s fitting this final moment breaks the tight proscenium of Derby’s Guildhall Theatre, with its small, raised acting area, which offers little room for movement, giving a slightly static element to Attenborough’s revival, while adding to the sense of constriction, both in the hotel-room and in King’s life.

There are two excellent performances. Bakare shows the political leader’s fears – shuddering as a thunderous night seems full of gun-shots – pride (should he shave-off his moustache?), and desires when room-service comes with an attractive young Black woman; Black America’s idol may have feet of clay; she tells us he certainly has ones that smell.

Camae’s not all she seems – or rather, she’s more than she seems. And Ayesha Antoine’s grown-up finely from a reticent 9-year old in Ayckbourn’s My Wonderful Day and a mouthy teenager in Stratford East’s recent Red Riding Hood to show, in a detailed yet economic performance, a shrewd, assertive yet sympathetic character with her own story to tell, who brings the celebrated Dr King, as he prepares to speak from his hotel balcony, direct news of life in the streets.

Camae: Ayesha Antoine.
Martin Luther King Jr: Ariyo Bakare.

Director: Tom Attenborough.
Designer: Simon Kenny.
Lighting: Colin Grenfell.
Sound: Adam McCready.
Video: Ian William Galloway.
Movement: Nick Winston.
Dialect coach: Tim Charrington.

2011-03-24 14:00:06

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