Directed by Michael Buffong and starring ‘Rising Damp’ actor Don Warrington ‘King Lear’ comes to Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre on 1 April, and will run until 6 May.
The play will be presented as part of the jubilations for black led production company Talawa’s 30th anniversary year. Talawa’s production of King Lear will be shown 400 years after the death of Shakespeare, who died in 1616.
In 2013 Talawa brought Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre to life with a mesmerising production of Arthur Miller’s ‘All My Sons’. The company utilised a black cast for the very first time in the play’s history, and received grand critical acclaim.
TNT asked Michael whether he has done anything to modernise Talawa’s production of ‘King Lear’ to which he replied, “The writer of ‘Game of Thrones’ quoted Lear as his source material, so effectively we are as current as we can be with this production without having to update it as it were. It’s relevant, it’s vibrant and it’s accessible”.
Talawa’s has incorporated a mixed-race cast for their production of ‘King Lear’, which shrewdly hints at the idea of a black presence in England way before the 50’s. This concept rarely gets played out within other productions of ‘King Lear’, but Talawa are on hand this time.
When talking about casting Don Warrington as King Lear, Michael told TNT “Black actors didn’t usually get the chance to play classical roles 30 years ago and still don’t now, so it was a no brainer to cast Don. He is an absolute heavyweight actor, he brings great gravitas and majesty to the role of King Lear”.
Talawa was created in 1986 in direct response to the lack of creative opportunities for actors from BAME communities. One of the company’s first ventures was to produce the superbly written ‘God’s Property’ for London’s Soho Theatre before taking the play on tour.
The company then went on to produce ‘Moon on a Rainbow Shawl’, which was shown at the National Theatre. After being shown at the National this production was taken on a nationwide tour, which was adequate in the sense that Talawa could demonstrate their type of theatre and their brand to unaware regions throughout the UK.
Talawa has recently welcomed a new writing strand named the Talawa writes programme, and have been reaping the rewards. The company has a brand new show called ‘Girls’, which was written by programme participant Theresa Ikoko, coming out in the autumn. ‘Girls’ will open at the High Tide Theatre before moving on to the Soho Theatre. Talawa undertake an abundance of artist development work, through programmes such as Studio First and Talawa First.
TNT Entertainment Billy Rooney
Photo credit: curvetheatre