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Ian McDiarmid to play Enoch Powell in What Shadows at Park Theatre

What Shadows 2016. Ian McDiarmid as Enoch Powell. Photo by Ellie Kurttz.

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

OLIVIER and Tony Award-winning actor, Ian McDiarmid will play MP Enoch Powell in The Birmingham Repertory Theatre production of Chris Hannan’s searing play, What Shadows.

Directed by Roxana Silbert (Artistic Director, Birmingham Repertory Theatre), it runs at Park Theatre (PARK200) from September 26 to October 28, 2017.

What Shadows tells the story of Powell’s explosive ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech, bringing to life the community that inspired it and, 30 years later, its effects on a woman trying to make sense of her life.

I was a storm. I was also a man entirely alone in a storm. There were forces beyond my control and I was one of them.

Oxford academic and daughter of a Caribbean immigrant, Rose Cruickshank wants answers. Enoch’s controversial words about immigration shattered her childhood. Rose cannot find inner peace until she understands what led him to make the speech that defined a generation. Will a meeting with the man himself give her the answers she desperately craves?

Director Roxana Silbert says of What Shadows: “As we near the 50th anniversary of Enoch Powell’s explosive ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech, the nation finds itself again facing profound and difficult questions about national identity and attitudes to immigration. Chris’s powerful play is a scorching interrogation of prejudices and how a bitterly divided country moves forward in the wake of a crisis. It couldn’t be more necessary.”

Ian McDiarmid is an Olivier and Tony award-winning British character actor and director, internationally renowned for his role as Palpatine in George Lucas’ Star Wars films. His other film credits include Sleepy Hollow, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Gorky Park and Dragonslayer.

His recent theatre credits include the title role in A Life of Galileo directed by Roxana Silbert (RSC), Shylock in The Merchant of Venice (Almeida Theatre), Maximus in Emperor and Galilean (National Theatre), the title role in John Gabriel Borkman (Donmar Warehouse) and the father in Rupert Goold’s Six Characters in Search of an Author (Chichester Festival Theatre).

Joining McDiarmid in the cast of What Shadows will be Nicholas Le Prevost (as Clem Jones), Amelia Donkor (Rose Cruickshank and Joyce Cruickshank), Paula Wilcox (Grace Hughes and Marjorie Jones), Waleed Akhtar (Saeed), Ameet Chana (Sultan and Doctor Sharma) and Joanne Pearce (Sofia and Pamela).

Presented by Oliver Mackwood and Charles Diamond in Association with Park Theatre, What Shadows will be designed by Ti Green, with lighting by Chahine Yavroyan, original sound design by Giles Thomas, video design by Louis Price and movement direction by Anna Morrissey. Voice and dialect coach is Stephen Kemble and associate director is Luke Kernaghan.

What Shadows is suitable for ages 14+.

Image: What Shadows 2016. Ian McDiarmid as Enoch Powell. Photo by Ellie Kurttz.

Times: Tuesday to Saturday at 7.30pm, Thursday and Saturday matinees at 3pm.

Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes including interval.

Audio described performance: Wednesday, October 11 at 7.30pm, Touch Tour at 6pm.

For more information or to book tickets, call the box office on 020 7870 6876 or visit

Also at Park Theatre: The 50th anniversary production of Joe Orton’s darkly comic masterpiece, Loot (August 17 to September 24, 2017).