The Mountaintop

Previewed 16 July 2009, opened 20 July 2009, closed 5 September 2009 at the Trafalgar Studio 1 in London

Katori Hall's critically acclaimed play The Mountaintop in London for a strictly limited seven week season

The night before his assassination Martin Luther King retires to room 306 in the now famous Lorraine Motel in Memphis after giving an acclaimed speech to a massive church congregation. When he calls room service for a cup of coffee, he gets much more than he expects from the young maid who delivers it as King is forced to confront his past and the future of his people.

The cast for this two-hander features David Harewood as 'Martin Luther King' and Lorraine Burroughs as 'Camae'. Directed by James Dacre with designs by Libby Watson, projections by Dick Straker, lighting by Emma Chapman and sound by Richard Hammarton. This production transfers to London's West End following its World Premiere at Theatre503 in South West London (9 June to 4 July 2009).

"David Harewood has Martin Luther King's urgent tenor to a tee. He maybe overdoes the vocal tremor a little, but we see a King who has manly appetites and a keen sense of inquiry. His relationship with the maid recalls Frank Capra's 1946 film It's A Wonderful Life, in which a man meets his guardian angel. The entire play happens in the hotel room. You can almost sense the stuffiness. Things start and end with edgy music and actuality from the Deep South of 1968. Miss Hall's depiction of civil rights leader King as a rake who considered being disloyal to his wife may upset some. This Martin Luther King even has smelly feet. In its politics, however, the play is decidedly more conventional and respectful. We see little personal political ambition in the great demagogue. There is only a tiny hint here of the buzz he must have got from his speechifying... I could have done with some more chewing over of the idea of grievance in American politics. And yet, James Dacre's production has force. The basic plot idea is clever, Mr Harewood's King is a strong, likeable man and in this small, shabby hotel room you understand how that extraordinary voice must have mesmerised so many millions." The Daily Mail

"The gap between feisty Friar Tuck and Nobel Peace Prize winner Martin Luther King is wider than Sherwood Forest. But David Harewood, TV's Tuck, manages the leap with aplomb in Katori Hall's fanciful account of Dr King's last evening before his 1968 assassination. King is alone and lonely in his motel room when a maid named Camae (the excellent Lorraine Burroughs) delivers his room-service cup of coffee. But Camae isn't what she seems. Indeed, as a cool, cussing messenger from the Almighty, one could suggest she's a whole lot more. Some of the dialogue is very funny and Harewood''s impersonation of Dr King's distinctive voice is spot on. Ultimately the play is a fantasy too far, but admirable in delving inside the mind of the civil rights campaigner who preached non-violence right up to his tragic, violent end." The Sun

"The weather is biblical, the motel room is peach, and Martin Luther King prepares his last speech. The Memphis playwright Katori Hall imagines the evening before his 1968 assassination in an idiosyncratic play that bundles together magic realism, flirty character comedy and unabashed hagiography (as well as an icky nod to the coming of Obama). This MLK has holes in his socks and stinky feet of clay; he drinks and smokes and hits on Camae, the hot motel maid. David Harewood's imposing King unleashes a big voice into the tiny room, his resonant bass excoriating America. Lorraine Burroughs's wonderfully sardonic Camae adds crackle to the exposition, before revealing herself to be... something way stranger." The Sunday Times

"Mercifully, the American playwright Katori Hall doesn't have Martin Luther King bursting into song in his final hours at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis in April 1968, in her play The Mountaintop, but he is still pretty loquacious... Lorraine Burroughs's maid, wearing what looks like an EasyJet uniform, announces in the play's final, surreal moments that she is actually the angel of death. She then proceeds to get God on the telephone for King to speak to. The creator turns out to be a woman and black. It's all very liberal, albeit in a self-conscious way. The problem is James Dacre can't seem to work out whether it is a comedy or a tragedy that he is directing. When the curtain came down, one felt no closer to King. Worse, one had an uneasy sense that he had been trivialised." The Sunday Telegraph

The Mountaintop in London at the Trafalgar Studio 1 previewed from 16 July 2009, opened on 20 July 2009 and closed on 5 September 2009