The Mountaintop by Katori Hall is a fictional depiction of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr’s last night on earth. The Other Room in Cardiff, as always, taking on productions which don’t shy away from a challenge.This production feels daring on multiple fronts. Bringing the conversation to Cardiff during Black History Month, bringing discussion at a time when there has been so much in the media about our culture thanks to Brexit.
Taking on the icon which is Martin Luther King Jr. But more than an icon, bring religion to the stage and confronting the ability of individuals to be pure, bring questions to how flawed a human can be and still create change for good.
I don’t want to be too scathing of Brexit, political discussion should always be welcomed. But we seem to create political dialogue in parallel with a media machine intent on challenging the communities which create the country which can support each of us.
And jumping to the final scenes of ‘The Mountaintop’, beautifully written words by Katori Hall, executed perfectly by Alexandria Riley show how society can be progressive, moving toward inclusivity, and hold dear the people who amplify the qualities we want to be surrounded by. The words weren’t fiction, they were full of a reality, the strength it takes to move forward physically accompanying the text.
The creation of Martin Luther King Jr. was in the hands of Mensah Bediako. A significant task, especially given this wouldn’t be portrayed as a man of strength, the great orator. Instead this is a fictional portayal of King’s final evening in room 306 of the Lorraine Motel.
Returning exhausted after addressing a rally in support of black sanitary public works employees. Attention to detail is an obvious strength of the script, adding context and empathy throughout. And it is this attention which allows the belief in the potential of a weaker side to King.
Bediako creates the complexity of character which sees flirtation with Camae, the maid who brings King his room service coffee. Camae, beautifully portrayed by Riley, brings a complete contrast to King, setting the differences in lifestyle but the similarities of human behaviour and conviction which underpins regardless of upbringing. Abdul Shayek’s direction ensuring a relationship of equals was made, in two such strong characters.
Riley has a comic timing which made the production for me, the weight of the themes needs something to keep the audience engaged and it was the humour of the script which allowed the themes to be underlined and emphasised rather than underplayed. Riley’s delivery made the moments. Especially given the twist in the tale, adding another dimension to the story in how religion plays its role in life.
The Other Room is the perfect set up for an audience engaging in the events of a tiny motel room. The design by Stacey-Jo Atkinson captured not only the element of reality but also the relationship with the audience. The lighting and sound design by Jane Lalljee and Dan Lawrence respectively allowed the complexity of character to be realised, and successfully brought together convincingly the words underpinning the story.
The Mountaintop allows its audience to be challenged, to think, about race, culture, religion and conviction without being intimidating. With an acceptance of flaws but an expectation of acceptance.
Fio’s production of ‘The Mountaintop’ by Katori Hall is at The Other Room, Cardiff until the 15th October with tickets available from The Other Room.
Disclosure: I was invited to the performance for the purpose of this review. All opinions and views are my own.