“How they got tomorrow’s paper?”
“Tomorrow’s already here”
The truth spoken in Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop is as relevant now, if not more so, as it was when it first premiered nearly ten years ago. The play is a fictional adaptation of Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s final night on earth, before his assassination on 4th April 1968.
In the intimate setting of the Reading Rep Theatre: located at Reading College, I found myself transported back to the 1960s, with MLK Jr standing right there in front of me. Gbolahan Obisesan’s embodiment of the civil rights preacher appeared accurate- from what I can tell, although I never would have thought Martin Luther King Jr was unfaithful to his wife – as it is heavily implied in this play. If anything, this component of the play was extremely alienating.
However, the relationship between Obisesan and his co-star Ronke Adékoluejo was electric; their ability to bounce off each other and convey the true emotion behind the lines made the experience all the more enjoyable. Adékoluejo’s performance as the common maid at the motel: ‘Camae’ delivered some incredible lines, the most prevalent being: ‘You think us poor folk ain’t got no mouth!’, allowing the play to connect with issues of class as well as race. The script transcends time in many ways, which is a true credit to Katori Hall, as she understands that plays like this will always be relevant – especially with us ‘poor folk’ who all have thoughts, but no outlet to express them through.
Although I strongly believe that the play could have omitted at least half of the final speech by MLK Jr, I must admit that the themes explored in the play of perseverance, standing up for what you believe in, love and loss are all necessary for the modern audience to engage with. As the line of the play goes: ‘The baton may have been dropped, but anyone can pick it up”.
The play is only running until Saturday 27th October at the Reading Rep Theatre before it tours the rest of the country, so catch it whilst you still can!