Race & violence pack a punch in National Theatre spring season

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

The National Theatre has announced its spring season and it leads off with a story about race and the historic exploitation of black recording artists by white producers.

Award-winning Sharon D Clarke returns to the National to star in August Wilson’s 1982 play, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom in the Lyttelton Theatre this January.

Inspired by the real-life Blues legend and infused with her music, Wilson’s play speaks powerfully of a struggle for self-determination against overwhelming odds.

Set in 1920s Chicago and, in a recording studio on the city’s South Side, a battle of wills is raging.

Ma Rainey, Mother of the Blues, uses every trick in the book to fight her record producers for control of her music.

Hardened by years of ill-treatment and bad deals, she’s determined that Black Bottom, the song that bears her name, will be recorded her way.

But Levee, the band’s swaggering young trumpet player, plans to catapult the band into the jazz age. His ambition puts them all in danger.

The cast also includes Clint Dyer, O-T Fagbenle, Tunji Lucas, Lucian Msamati and Giles Terera.

The late playwright Sarah Kane receives her National Theatre debut with an unflinching new production of Cleansed directed by Katie Mitchell on the Dorfman stage.

Existing on the border between beauty and brutality, Cleansed imagines a world in which language, human relationships and the body itself are pared away to bare bone (contains graphic scenes of physical and sexual violence).

Les Blancs

Lorraine Hansberry’s Les Blancs is an unknown masterpiece of the American stage and a highly theatrical search for the soul of post-colonial Africa.

A family and a nation fall apart under the pressure to determine their own identity as this brave, illuminating and powerful play confronts the hope and tragedy of revolution.

The Suicide, in the Lyttelton Theatre is Suhayla El-Bashra’s adaptation of Nikolai Erdman’s satiric masterpiece about the trials and tribulations of a young man at the end of his tether. Faced with the promise of immortality, what’s his life worth?

Annie Baker’s play The Flick arrives at the National Theatre direct from New York, where it won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama as well as the Susan Smith Blackburn Award and the Obie Award for Playwriting.

In a run-down movie theatre in central Massachusetts, three underpaid employees mop the floors and attend to one of the last 35-millimetre film projectors in the state.

Their tiny battles and not-so-tiny heartbreaks play out in the empty aisles, becoming more gripping than the lacklustre, second-run movies on screen.

For full details of the spring programme go to the National Theatre website.

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