Rachel - Finborough Theatre
Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle
REDISCOVERED by Finborough Theatre Artistic Director Neil McPherson, Rachel is a genuinely lost landmark of American theatre – the first play by an African American woman (Angelina Weld Grimké) ever produced professionally.
Directed by Ola Ince, as part of Black History Month, Rachel receives its European premiere at the Finborough Theatre, where it runs from October 2 (previews from September 30) to October 25, 2014.
Today, we colored men and women, everywhere – are up against it… In the South, they make it as impossible as they can for us to get educated. In the North, they make a pretence of liberality; they give us the ballot and a good education, and then snuff us out. Each year, the problem just to live, gets more difficult to solve.
Rachel is a young, educated, middle-class woman. But she is born into an African-American family in the early 20th century – a world in which ignorance and violence prevail.
While her family and neighbours find different ways to survive, Rachel’s dreams of getting married and becoming a mother collide with the tragic events of her family’s past as she confronts the harsh reality of a racist world.
Written exactly midway between the American Civil War and the end of slavery, and the explosion of Civil Rights in the 1960s, this hauntingly beautiful and profoundly shocking play still asks urgent questions for today.
Rachel was first produced by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1916 in Washington, D.C. and subsequently at the Neighborhood Theater, New York City, and in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with an all-black cast. Leading African-American historian Alain Leroy Locke said of Rachel that it was “the first successful drama written by a Negro and interpreted by Negro actors.”
Playwright Angelina Weld Grimké (1880-1958) was a poet, dramatist, journalist, teacher, essayist, radical feminist and lesbian icon. She was born in Boston, Massachusetts, into an unusual and distinguished mixed-race family which, within the three preceding generations, included slaveholders and slaves, free black people, white abolitionists, and advocates for women’s rights and women’s suffrage.
She is widely regarded as a leading forerunner of the Harlem Renaissance, the cultural, social, and artistic explosion that took place in Harlem between the end of the First World War and the middle of the 1930s including such seminal figures as James Baldwin and Langston Hughes.
Director Ola Ince returns to the Finborough Theatre where she directed the world premiere of Chris Dunkley’s The Soft of Her Palm and May Sumbwanyambe’s Back Home Contemplation as part of The Papatango New Writing Festival. She was formerly a Resident Assistant Director at the theatre, assisting on Fanta Orange and Blue Serge.
Her directing credits elsewhere include Treading Air (Bush Theatre), HOT (Invertigo at the Hightide Festival), A Piece of Cake (Tristan Bates Theatre), Pets Corner (Arcola Theatre), One Million Tiny Plays About Britain (The Clare Theatre at Young Vic), and Games (Pleasance London). As an Assistant Director, her work includes Porgy and Bess (Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park), A Taste of Honey (National Theatre), Josephine and I (Bush Theatre), Wild Swans and Disco Pigs (Young Vic) and Secret Thoughts and The Demolition Man (Octagon Theatre, Bolton).
Rachel is presented by ABG Productions in association with Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre.
For more information or to book tickets, call the box office on 0844 847 1652 or visit www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk/.