By Gillie Tunley and Evelyn Williams.

Katori Hall‘s powerful play, the Olivier Award winning ‘The Mountaintop’, is being performed at Reading Rep this week, with dynamic direction by the JMK award winner Roy Alexander Weise.

Set amid the beige 60s décor of room 306 of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee and against a tumultuous thunderstorm, we meet the campaign weary Martin Luther King (Michael King Junior before God), who has ‘been to the mountain top… and seen the promised land’. Gbolahan Obisesan bears an astonishing resemblance to the man and seems to embody his very spirit.

Enter room service, the seductively sashaying Camae (Ronke Adékoluejo) on her first day in the job, bearing an inexhaustible supply of Pall Mall cigarettes – if the civil rights movement doesn’t kill you, these will, she flirtatiously informs him.

In a single act of 100 mesmerising minutes, the couple debate, spar, smoke and tease their way through the night, chemistry crackling between them.

There are moments of delightful humour (King talking to God on a pink telephone), as well as touching pathos and dark despair. This is not a docudrama of the last night of MLK on earth, more a mythological and spiritual representation of the final hours before his assassination.

It builds to a thrilling denouement, as Camae speeds us through an insistent beat-poem against Nina Dunn’s arresting newsreel backdrop where the good, the bad and the ugly feature, O J Simpson alongside Barack Obama. And finally, she seals King’s fate with a kiss…

This is quite simply breathtaking theatre, with tour-de-force performances from the superb protagonists Obisesan and Adékoluejo. Do not miss it.

The play runs for two more nights at Reading Rep Theatre at Reading College at 7.30pm on Friday 26 and Saturday 27 October. Tickets are still available for Friday night only at £14 (£12 for concessions) from the Reading Rep website.

‘The Mountaintop’ then moves on to the Curve in Leicester (13-17 November), the Bristol Old Vic (21-24 November) and the Birmingham Repertory Theatre (27 November-1 December).

  1. Reading Rep
  2. JMK trust
  3. National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel
  4. I’ve been to the Mountaintop – Wikipedia