“The Mountaintop” Fea. Richard Pepple & Keshia Pope, Reviewed by Stephen Hall
Breaching the summit
Recently, I met a guy that has climbed the highest summit on all seven continents; skied across both poles, paddled down the world’s most dangerous rivers, faced death several times and completed desert marathons. None of this, however, places him above the achievements of Dr Martin Luther King.
If truth be told, they had different goals and our adventurer doesn’t claim his feats should out-shout MLK, but seeing The Mountaintop, a play written by American Katori Hall, performed in The Frank Collymore Hall, you could see how the two character’s lives could almost have been entwined as they set almost impossible targets for achievement.
So what’s it all about?
You may believe that you know so much already about Dr Martin Luther King, as history books are filled with positive stories of this legend, but The Mountaintop allows you a brief glimpse into his personal life as he confronts his mortality the night before he was assassinated.
We get to wonder and share what the real Dr King was like when he wasn’t writing and delivering speeches. After all, he was an individual like all of us and forcefully wished he could be with his family, rather than hounded in a cheap motel.
A play of two halves
A play in such an intimate setting must keep its audience engrossed throughout and in particular, to present the audience with a great reason to want to rush back into the theatre after the half-time interval. The Mountaintop presents an intriguing first set which doesn’t give you a clue of how the second set will completely entrap you into the marvellous performances on the stage.
The finish has to be seen to be believed. Often plays falter to an obvious ending, whereas The Mountaintop breathes life and energy and guarantees a level of entertainment not usually associated to two-handed plays.
Local Bajan actor Keshia Pope is excellent as the hotel maid during the set before the interval, but as the second half evolves she come alive with a thrilling performance that will keep you riveted to your seat, especially during her personal monologue where no one dared to divert their attention.
Richard Pepple plays Dr King so well, that it’s easy to forget that the legend died way back in 1968 and we didn’t have the man himself in front of us, sharing his personal views for a couple of hours.
These actors fill the stage with their often amusing and clever banter while both understanding the seriousness of the situation and how important Dr King’s role in the civil rights movement was both to America, and to the rest of the world. He does mention The Dream, in case you wondered.
There are so many surprises that can’t be shared here, otherwise it might spoil it for your friends, but a special word must go out to the technical team who were flawless throughout, using many different forms of off stage effects with perfect timing.
The team behind the scene
Hanna Berrigan, the director, sat in with the audience, taking occasional notes, which proved the faith she had in the cast and the crew to perform without any further involvement from her leadership, showing that the hard work had been completed before the opening night.
Melissa Simmonds, of the Gale Theatre company, has consistently brought British and Barbadian actors together to the Bajan stage, to show its audience a brief glimpse of London’s West End and New York’s Broadway, something rarely witnessed on the rock.
On leaving the theatre, people only spoke well about the performance with many observing that they were looking forward to the next show that this team presents.
Where a theatre can only be filled for a few nights with such a small catchment of population, it’s probably difficult, even for a charity, to break even with such an event which is why the touch of giving away a free program went down so well.
Tickets in London and New York would have cost three times as much as this play with the programme setting you back a further $10 or more. This is an excellent play by a brilliant playwright with a high-quality cast and crew.
Where you want to see theatre at its best, this is an opportunity not to be missed at a cost which considers the recession, but still manages to provide a great evening’s entertainment. Go tell your friends and they’ll certainly thank you for the invite.