London’s National Theatre has mounted a revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s 1970 play “Les Blancs” (“The Whites”).
Hansberry, who died in 1965, is best known as the playwright behind the 1959 play “A Raisin in the Sun,” a story about a black family struggling to make it in Chicago’s southside. Hansberry left behind many uncompleted works that have not yet achieved the notoriety of “A Raisin in the Sun,” one of them being “Les Blancs,” finished 11 years after the hit play. After her passing, Hansberry’s husband, Richard Nemiroff, completed the work.
“Les Blancs” tells the story of Tshembe Matoseh (Danny Sapani), a London-based man returning to his village in an unspecified African country for his father’s funeral. While there, Tshembe engages in debates with an American journalist (Elliot Cowan) and several of the village’s European residents. The subject matter and the radical form of the play are different from Hansberry’s best known work, but according to Yaël Farber, the play’s director, “[Hansberry] thought ‘Les Blancs’ was her most important work.”
Most recently, the South African director helmed an award-winning production of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” in London’s West End, as well as a production of Oscar Wilde’s tragic play “Salome.” She received the 2013 Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award and the Asian Media Award for Best Live Event for her production of “Nirbhaya,” a powerful work about sexual and gender-based violence in New Delhi that she also wrote.
“Les Blancs” is playing through May 4 at the Olivier Theatre.