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RED VELVET at the Tricycle Theatre

March 10, 2014

Lolita Chakrabarti’s RED VELVET at the Tricycle Theatre is the story of Ira Aldridge, an African American stage actor who toured Britain and Europe playing leading Shakespearean roles in the 19th Century. The play opens as Ira is struggling with illness at the end of his career and life in his dressing room in Lodz in Poland as he prepares to play King Lear. We are then transported back 34 years to Covent Garden when Edmund Kean collapses on stage and Theatre manager Pierre Laporte asks Ira to take over the role of Othello. At the time no other black actor had been seen on stage at one of London’s patent theatres and this also coincided with the campaign to abolish slavery in British territories (the Act for the Abolition of Slavery throughout the British Empire was finally passed on 28 August 1833).

I loved the play and I love Adrian Lester who plays Ira Aldridge. This is a very theatrical play in content, setting and style. There was a richness to the performances and the melodrama of the period was very effective. Charlotte Lucas as Ellen Tree, Oliver Ryan as Charles Keen and Eugene O’Hare were all exceptional amongst a strong ensemble. Adrian Lester through his performance tells the story of Ira and he was remarkable. The scenes when he plays Othello on stage at Covent Garden are full of intense purpose. I am sure recently playing Othello at the National has given his performance an edge.

This short reprise of the 2012 show at the Tricycle is completely sold out before the play transfers for a run on Broadway.

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