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Red Velvet – a note! Tricycle, NW6

Just a note to say that I reviewed this when it first aired at the Tricycle in 2012,  and was pleased to be one of those who voted its awards at the Critics’ Circle.  My review  (Times property still, so paywall I fear)  can be read in full on


But I can say here that it is a gripping treatment of the story of Ira Aldridge, an African-American actor who briefly  played Othello in the West End in 1833,  – the year of the final Abolition of Slavery Act in the UK.
And that Adrian Lester does it perfectly: finding a way to express the over-emphatic (pre-electric lighting) stage manner of the age,  and giving Aldridge a great dignity and humour, in the face of terrible panicky racialism and that weird sexual dread which accompanied it (there’s a white Desdemona who – gasp! – he has to manhandle.
Lolita Chakrabarti’s script is great. And there is a terrible moment at the end, when the actor – successful across Europe – is preparing for a role by slowly, carefully,  whitening his handsome face to be more acceptable.
Tremendously topical, given this week’s concerns about the poor ethnic mix in modern British stage and TV.

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