John Legend singing Glory, the theme song for the 2014 film Selma, fills the room. The set is Room 306 of the Lorraine Motel, Memphis Tennessee and Martin Luther King jnr. (Mark M. Cryer) is settling down after having rallied a church congregation during the sanitation workers’ strike where he made his famous speech saying “I’ve been to the mountain top and seen the Promised Land”. It is 3rd April 1968 – the night before his assassination on the hotel’s balcony.
In this imagined night before his untimely end a storm ominously thunders and King shudders at every peal. Coughing and spluttering, he is gasping for a fag and sends an aide for a pack of Pall Malls. He calls room service to be told it’s no longer available in the Lorraine yet a maid (Kiana Sosa) appears with coffee on a tray and an endless supply of his favourite smoke.
Intrigued and entranced by this pretty young woman, King doesn’t know quite what to make of her. Flirty yet able to make a speech in his style but with a more radical message, she throws him completely by referring to him by his birth name. Who but a spook or an ‘incognegro’ would hold such intimate knowledge?
King had to deal with the threat of death daily and his faith may have allowed him a perceived immunity yet this play reminds that everyone is replaceable and a female God has other plans for him.
Its dialogue a bit clunky at the start as it’s used to get some back story across. Some shaving off of extraneous parts like King having a noisy pee and his phoning home for a toothbrush would take us more quickly to the taut and poignant piece of theatre acted with integrity and sincerity that this turns out to be.
At the end of this powerful play, Camae lets King see the beautiful and ugly face of the so called ‘promised land’ in a quick fire slide show that demonstrates how the ‘baton has been passed’ with the message of the Civil Rights Movement that needs to be told and told again.
18-22 August at 14.00