How much does the public know about Enoch Powell? We all knew him as a firebrand politician but was that all?
Oliver Michell has gone behind the public personna with his new play, The Tulip Tree, which runs at London’s Drayton Arms Theatre from the end of this month.
The controversial piece gives the audience an opportunity to see beyond the politician and his Rivers Of Blood speech, to reveal a young brigadier, lecturer and poet, who wrote for the woman, he believed, was destined to be his wife.
Powell – loathed as a racist, revered as a prophet. A professor at 25. A brigadier at 32. Hailed as an intellectual prodigy, Powell was predicted to be a future Prime Minister.
But the moment that shaped his destiny had nothing to do with race, politics or Rivers of Blood. The Tulip Tree tells the story of Powell’s relationship with Barbara Kennedy, a woman who challenged Powell’s outlook and influenced the man he went on to become.
Oriel Theatre Company’s production, which first debuted at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe, is directed by Antonio Ferrara and stars Piers Hunt (Paul Verrell), Alexander Shenton (J. Enoch Powell), Helen Reuben (Barbara Kennedy) and Peter Wicks (Edward Campion).
Oliver Michell was the recipient of the ‘Best Play’ award at the Oxford University New Writing Festival in 2012. He founded The Oriel Theatre Company while at UEA and the group produced his play Major Kovalyov at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2013.
The play opens on April 2, with previews from March 31 and runs until April 25.