Writer: Katori Hall
Director: Roy Alexander Weise
Reviewer: Julia Beasley
What was on Dr Martin Luther King’s mind in the hours preceding his untimely public assassination? Writer Katori Hall examines the probable hopes and fears of the great American civil rights campaigner on the night before his violent death, in this sensitive revival of the Olivier award-winning biopic at Bristol Old Vic’s brand new and intimate Weston Studio.
The action is set on 3 April 1968 in room 306 at the Lorraine Motel, Memphis. In a fug of cigarette smoke, during a ferocious lightning storm, the indomitable King rests after having delivered that day his famous I’ve been to the mountaintop speech.
Gbolahan Obisesan presents the man behind the myth with a wry, irreverent humour. This is the very human side of Martin, foibles and all. At the end of the day the great orator and marcher has smelly feet and coffee breath; he also drinks, smokes, flirts outrageously and cowers at the sound of thunder.
He may be a legend in his own lifetime, but in private he is often frightened for his family, his country and himself. The Mountaintop is set at the height of the American civil rights movement and pays homage to those dangerous times. King has become accustomed to receiving death threats wherever he goes, he says movingly:
Fear is my companion, my love, and my best friend. I know if I’m still afraid I’m still alive.
But the star of this show is Rochelle Rose who plays voluptuous, radical and sassy maid Camae with huge passion and charisma. As ‘Preacher King’ attempts to write his next sermon, she challenges him to confront his feelings and appreciate his life’s achievements, including his family.
She shows him the future of Black power and brings him to acceptance of the fact that after all he is just a man and not god. Tears streaming down her face, the charismatic amae brings an emotional and unexpected twist to King’s imagined last night on earth.
Runs until 24 November 2018 | Image: Contributed