Today must be what’s-going-on-on-the-London-stage day on S & A. With my news earlier that Chiwetel Ejiofor will be playing Patrice Lumumba next year at the Young Vic, comes word that Adrian Lester is currently playing the legendary and ground breaking black actor Ira Aldridge in the new play Red Velvet.
The play, which opened on Oct 11, and is currently running though Sat. Nov 24 at the Tricycle Thetare in London, was written by Lolita Chakrabarti. It’s fair to say that Ms. Charkrabarti wrote the play with Lester in mind, since she also happens to be his wife.
The play revolves around an actual incident invloving Aldridge in 1833 when Edmund Kean, who was the considred the greatest British actor of his day, was taken ill and Aldridge was asked to take his place in a performance of Otello. With the blistering debate over abolishing slavery going on in England at the time, how would people “react to the revolution taking place on stage?“
Aldridge himself was a fascinating person and worthy of a film about his life. He was born a free man in New York in 1805, the grandson of a Senegalese Fula tribal chief.
He started his career in acting in the 1820’s, but left the U.S. not too long afterwards because of discrimination, and eventually became, across the U.K., Ireland and Europe, one of the most famous and acclaimed actors of his day, performing mainly Shakespearan roles, including King Lear, Shylock from The Merchant of Venice along with Otello.
He eventually became a British ciitizen, got married a few times along the way, had several children and traveled and performed throughout Europe, even living in Russia for several years.
He died in Lodz, Poland in 1867 while on tour, and was buried there.
To order tickets for the play go HERE.
A trailer with Lester and others discussing the play follows:
h/t to Candace Allen