I’ve not updated my diary of a theatre addict for six weeks now — I was last here on January 31 — since when I’ve seen all of 49 shows, including outings to Newbury, Dartford, Clwyd, Manchester, Bromley and Cardiff, plus a week in New York. I’ve also taken an active part in two more shows by appearing onstage as a contestant in a theatrical re-run of Mr and Mrs with husband (so it was really Mr and Mr, we’re pictured above with host Samuel Holmes) and as part of David Bedella and Friends, his monthly chat show at the St James Studio.
This week the London theatre bloggers discuss Caryl Churchill’s latest play Escaped Alone at the Royal Court, the National Theatre revival of August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Red Velvet, starring Adrian Lester as part of the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company season in the West End.
This play based on the true life story of actor Ira Aldridge by Lolita Chakrabarti has the ability to grab your attention and evoke so many feelings that you feel totally wrung out by the end. Now I appreciate that this may not be everyone’s idea of a thrilling evening of entertainment, but for many such as myself this piece is exactly what we need in the West End right now.
This was my third visit to Lolita Chakrabarti’s play, starring her husband the matchless Adrian Lester. I liked it from the start, as everyone else did; was please to be one of those who voted both Chakrabarti and Lester their awards at the Critics’ Circle a couple of years ago. I called it “sharp and entertaining”, and was delighted by the tribute to a largely forgotten theatre hero: Ira Aldridge, a black American actor who in the 1830’s, even before slavery was banned, replaced the ailing Edmund Kean as Othello at the Theatre Royal in Covent Garden.
The surrealism takes your breath away. Two years ago London raved about Adrian Lester, a British actor of Jamaican descent, playing Othello at the National. Now we can rave about the same Adrian Lester playing an American actor who pretended to be African and played him at Covent Garden, in 1833. In Red Velvet, a play written by his wife.
Mark Shenton’s top ten of the week, including Florian Zeller’s The Mother that has followed his play The Father (soon to return to the West End) to London from Bath. Plus, this week’s biggest openings.
Rehearsal images for the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company’s run of Red Velvet are released today. The production, which originally premiered at the Tricycle Theatre in 2012 before transferring to St Ann’s Warehouse in New York in 2014, is the third play in the inaugural Plays at the Garrick season and will play at the Garrick Theatre from 23 January until 27 February 2016. Red Velvet is written by Lolita Chakrabarti with direction by Indhu Rubasingham and stars Adrian Lester as Ira Aldridge.