Roachelle Rose as Camae and Gbolahan Obisesan as Martin Luther King Jnr. Picture: Helen Murray

The Mountaintop

Birmingham Rep Door


The Mountaintop is the title given to Dr Martin Luther King’s final speech in Memphis and Katori Hall’s play chronicles the last night of Dr King’s life.

Hall sets the play in the room of the Memphis motel where Dr Kings was staying when he was shot dead. With the intimate and eerie setting as its backdrop, Hall’s play directed by Roy Alexander Weise sees Dr King contemplate his own life, mortality and the future of the world. It is spurred on by a visit from the motel maid.

The play is a two-handed piece, with Gboiahan Obisesan as Martin Luther King and Rochelle Rose as Camae. Hall’s play is an imaginative glance at the final hours of King’s life, giving the preacher great scope for emotion. With martyrs, it is easy to forget that they are also human, with mundane thoughts and feelings. Director Weise is an expert in intimacy and he helps us see into troubled and heartfelt complexities of Dr King’s mind.

Hall has a talent for creative dialogue and the setting compounds the intimacy of Dr king’s fears and contemplations. Rajha Shakiry’s set is strikingly realistic, taking us instantly to the 1960’s Memphis motel. The two characters never leave the room and because we are watching the piece unfold in the same place, we start to see the all intricacies of what Dr King could have felt in the last night of his life.

Mortality is a big theme in Hall’s play, reflecting a very particular moment in Dr King’s life, and one that is not usually presented. It is an interesting investigation which bridges the world as we know it today to 1960’s America. Although set within the Civil Rights Movement, the humanistic thoughts and feelings of fearing for the future and caring for those closest to us remain universal.

The play does not lend itself to one particular genre. The cast of two are so wonderfully natural and comfortable that it feels as if we are merely spectators into a conversation. As the play goes on, we see small twists that were not anticipated at the start. Hall makes unexpected plot turns which makes for some unexpected humorous moments in places. Small touches also make the piece stylised with ethereal ideas, blending from one era to the next. The underlying theme of racism and hatred is shown throughout all years.

The cast are utterly brilliant as they bring masses of energy and confidence to each part. Gbolahan Obisesan as Martin Luther King brings a great interpretation to the role. He remains truthful in intonation and character, however, his personal artistic touch shows his own flair.

His distincitive voice and uncanny looks keep us constantly connected. Obisesan’s best feature is that he allows us to feel the emotional response towards Dr King as the person, and not just as the preacher.

Equally, Roachelle Rose as Camae is the roaring maid who finds it difficult to leave the room after bringing him a cup of coffee. Rose has an exceptionally strong presence and her delivery in portraying the feisty character is a treat to behold. Her quality of voice is beautiful and lyrical, and she knows how to utilise varying moments as if it is a fine art. Her speech which links Dr King’s death to events of the future at the end of the play is truly spectacular.

The Mountaintop is a fine play with an unexpected turn of the plot. It is a fascinating insight into Dr King’s deepest thoughts, set against the backdrop of his final night in Memphis. Hall does well to use this as the springboard to show universal themes in the world today, and the epic influence of Dr King’s life and actions. To 01-12-18

Elizabeth Halpin


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