Writer: Katori Hall
Director: Abdul Shayek
Reviewer: Beth Steer
Set in Memphis, Tennessee, in the Louisiana Motel where civil rights leader The Reverend Martin Luther King spent his last night before his assassination, The Mountaintop is a show like no other.
As King tries to relax after his work with the Sanitation Workers Strike (April1968), he is met in his room by a maid, Camae, who brings him some late night coffee.
What follows is a brilliantly unexpected exploration of King’s thoughts, feelings and motivations, with Camae pitting against him questions that, no doubt, people past and present would like to have had answers to. Their conversations are candid, frank and, often, hilarious – the performance jam-packed with a startling amount of laugh out loud humour, while remaining fiercely politically charged.
As Camae, Alexandria Riley, gives an absolutely stunning performance. Her carefully chosen mannerisms, fiesty personality – moving from shy to challenging effortlessly – and flawless Southern accent creates a character with more depth than seems possible in the play’s short run-time. She is utterlymesmerising.
As King, Mensah Bediako is convincing and compelling, bringing the conflicting passions and campaigns of 1960s America to life. Both actors are on stage the entire time, and their performancesdo not waver once.
The clever set adds to the emotive, powerfully charged nature of the performance – a small motel room, only one metre away from the front row in Porter’s The Other Room, an incredibly intimate space seating only 44.
The brilliance of the writing shines through, as does the expert direction, as lines are delivered naturally and genuinely, the level of wit and humour continuing to surprise in a piece with such a heavy-going subject matter. There is a completely unexpected twist that is both moving and amusing, and it is executed brilliantly.
If pushed to find a negative about this superb performance, perhaps the penultimate dialogue could be cut a little shorter, as the audience gets a little restless. That being said, in the closing scenes, there are goose bumps on every arm, tears in every eye and a silence that could hear a pin drop.
An incredibly well thought out and put together historical piece that chimes shockingly with today’s racially and politically charged America, The Mountaintop is a truly inspiring, moving and compelling performance. Do not miss this – it’ll stay with you for a very long time.
Runs until 15 October 2016 | Image:Fio