Acclaimed American play This Bitter Earth, set at the start of the Black Lives Matter moment in the US, receives its UK premiere this month, running at London’s White Bear Theatre. Time to get booking!
When award-winning Black US playwright, librettist, and television writer David Harrison Rivers’ modern, nuanced, complex portrait of an interracial relationship received its world premiere at New Conservatory Theatre Center, San Francisco in 2017, it received rave reviews. It has since been staged to great acclaim across the United States.
This February, Storefront Theatre and Sarah Lawrie present the UK premiere of This Bitter Earth in a brand-new production directed by Peter Cieply, which runs for a strictly limited season from 21 February to 11 March 2023, with a press night on 23 February.
“A work of uncommon depth, nuance, and emotional impact” – Bay Area Reporter
The beginnings of the Black Lives Matter movement. Neil is a White activist from a privileged background. Jesse is an introspective Black writer, reluctant to join any cause.
As tensions mount with the extrajudicial killings of Black men throughout the U.S. and uprisings begin, the two men are forced to navigate the politics of their love and find their voices in a turbulent time. Wrestling with issues of race and class, love and loss, this moving and timely story is a haunting reminder of the strength it takes to live out loud.
★★★★★ “A lusty, delirious, time-suspending and pulse-pounding journey” – DC Theatre Scene
The two-hander features Martin Edwards (Mister Paradise – Trafalgar Studios, The Long Walk Back – national tour) as Jesse and Max Sterne (To Kill a Mockingbird – Manchester Royal Exchange, Conscious Uncoupling – Vault Festival) as Neil.
The design consultant is Isabella Van Braeckel, with lighting design and co sound design (with Peter Cieply) by Chuma Emembolu, and movement direction by Gareth Taylor.
This Bitter Earth runs from 21 February to 11 March 2023 at the White Bear Theatre, 138 Kennington Park Road, London SE11 4DJ, with Tuesday to Saturday evening performances at 7.30pm. Tickets £17 (concessions £13). CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!
Writer Harrison David Rivers is an award-winning Black playwright, librettist, and television writer based in St. Paul, Minnesota. His plays include THE BANDAGED PLACE (Playwrights’ Center, Roundabout Theatre Company), WE ARE CONTINUOUS (Williamstown Theatre Festival, Geva Theatre Center), THIS BITTER EARTH (New Conservatory Theatre Center, Penumbra, About Face, Theater Alliance, Richmond Triangle Players, The Road, InterAct, TheatreWorks Hartford, Seattle Public Theater), WHERE STORMS ARE BORN (Williamstown), WHEN LAST WE FLEW (NYFringe, Diversionary, TheatreLAB, Real Live Arts, Out Front), and the musicals FIVE POINTS with Douglas Lyons and Ethan Pakchar (Theater Latté Da), WE SHALL SOMEDAY with Ted Shen (Signature Theatre, Theater Latté Da), and I PUT A SPELL ON YOU with Nubya Garcia. Harrison has received commissions from Roundabout, Yale Rep, La Jolla Playhouse, Transport Group, Penumbra, TheatreWorks Hartford, and the Public Theater, among others. His television credits include ONE OF US IS LYING (Peacock) and THE NEVERS (HBO). Harrison sits on the board of directors of The Movement Theatre Company and the Playwrights’ Center. He is a graduate of Kenyon College and the Columbia School of the Arts.
Director Peter Cieply is a freelance director and actor based in London. Originally from Chicago, Peter worked for many years in Chicago and San Francisco before relocating to the UK in June 2018. Peter made his UK directorial debut as co-director for a tour of TITLE AND DEED by Will Eno for Farnham Maltings, and at Mountview he directed THE TRUTH by Florian Zeller and a studio workshop production of THIS BITTER EARTH for Mountview’s Catalyst Festival. Chicago directing credits include UNDER MILK WOOD (Theatre Building, After Dark Award for best direction), Adam Bock’s FIVE FLIGHTS (Immediate Theatre), and WAITING FOR GODOT (CT20 Ensemble). Assistant directing credits include THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH (Goodman Theatre Chicago, where Peter also worked as a script reader), and BRONTË (Remy Bumppo Theatre).
Inside the rehearsal room with director Peter Cieply, actor @maxastonsterne & movement director @Gareth_Taylor14 📸 THIS BITTER EARTH opens on Tuesday @WhiteBearTheatr #UKPremiere | Must end 11 March | Photography by Alan Williams | Tickets: https://t.co/28bQdi0cav 🏳️🌈 pic.twitter.com/Cpf4OytLFj
— This Bitter Earth (@this_bitter) February 15, 2023
In San Francisco, Peter developed and directed a new work, KEEP THE YULETIDE GAY (Theatre Q); and in Grand Rapids, Michigan, he staged Ike Holter’s HIT THE WALL (Actors’ Theatre). Peter has worked as an actor at numerous companies in Chicago and in the San Francisco Bay Area, and also worked as a writer covering theatre and performing arts. His new company, Storefront Theatre, takes its name from the Storefront Theatre Movement in the 1970s in Chicago, which established small theatres in shopfronts throughout the city, creating one of the most vibrant theatre scenes in the US. As a theatre maker Peter’s work is rooted in the realistic style for which Chicago has become famous, but incorporates his British training and European influences. Peter trained on the MA Theatre Directing program at Mountview and is a member of Stage Directors UK and Equity (UK).
Producer Sarah Lawrie has been making theatre since 2013. Most recently she produced Arts Council funded Web series LEAR ALONE, which won Best Series at Off West End’s OnComm Awards 2022. Other recent work includes LOVE & DESTRUCTION (Playground Theatre), THE QUALITY OF MERCY (Courtyard Theatre), LEAVES (Jermyn Street Theatre), ASSISTED (The Space at Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2022), POWER LUNCHEON (Hope Theatre), SCROUNGER (Finborough Theatre – winner of Best New Play at the Off West End Awards 2021), Web series LATE NIGHT STARING AT HIGH RES PIXELS (winner of London Pub Theatre’s Standing Ovation Award for Best Theatre Online), and TIMELESS (Space Theatre and touring). Sarah is a founding member of And Tomorrow Theatre Company, whose inaugural production, DEATH OF A HUNTER, premiered at the Finborough Theatre in 2018 and transferred to the Brighton Fringe Festival. In 2019 she produced the world premiere of EDRED, THE VAMPYRE for The London Horror Festival. Co-producing credits include MY ROMANTIC HISTORY (Old Red Lion), TREE HOUSE (Brewhouse Theatre Taunton and touring), MADAME BOVARY (Hope Theatre), ORANGES & INK (Tristan Bates Theatre and touring), and THE MARVELLOUS ADVENTURES OF MARY SEACOLE (C Venues, Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2016). Sarah is also the co-creator and sole producer of Rula Lenska’s one woman show FROM DZIKOW TO WILLESDEN GREEN and is currently developing SHUTTERS: A LESBIAN ROCK OPERA for The Vindicate Company.