A Truly Beautiful Masterpiece: RED VELVET at the Garrick

I'm really loving Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company's season at the Garrick, but what makes RED VELVET - the latest play in the season - so special is that it's a West End transfer of a show that has been around for a very long time. Red Velvet started its life at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn back in Winter 2012. With Adrian Lester at the helm, the play was held in high critical acclaim and after a short run in New York at St Ann's Warehouse in early 2014, the show is now in the West End.

Everything about this production is gorgeous. The story of a man held in such high regard being mocked simply for the colour of his skin is heartbreaking and manages to resonate with audiences to this day; we look at the discrimination that Ira Aldridge faced knowing that we still live in a world with this kind of ludicrous hatred. It's inspiring and touching to see a man (who is first presented to us as a sort of diva in a more modern time) have his reasons behind his actions explained in this massive flashback of a play. The kind man-turned-fighter that Ira Aldridge clearly was is inspiring to all and his ending in the play is heartbreaking and gutting to watch. Lolita Chakrabarti has managed to craft a piece of theatre that is excellent and enjoyable on a multitude of levels and it is marvelous. Tom Piper manages to design this story with expertise as well and makes this already gorgeous tale an even more beautiful and immersive experience thanks to the delightful period costume and set.

The casting of the show is absolutely sublime as well. Adrian Lester is obviously a true acting genius as Ira Aldridge himself; I was lucky enough to see Lester actually play Othello in the production that ran at the National Theatre a few years back, which is my favourite performance I have ever seen someone do in a Shakespeare piece. It was delightful to see him return to the stage in something that, to me, linked with the last time I saw him perform perfectly and as per usual, it was a privilege to watch him do what he does so well. Charlotte Lucas also made a delightful Ellen Tree: the woman who is engaged to the theatre company's 'heir to the throne' if you will and is reluctant to being prejudiced towards Ira. Not only does she manage to be a whole lot of comic relief throughout the show, but she also manages to be so real and honest at the same time; you managed to laugh with Ellen, but then you're suddenly feeling sorry for the situations she's been put in - she's the kind of person I imagine would be great fun to spend a Saturday night with! The rest of the cast were, of course, also stellar with final mention to Mark Edel-Hunt as Charles Kean: I truly hated him every single time he walked onto the stage, which is exactly what I was supposed to feel. Spectacular.

This play is a true masterpiece through and through and no matter what way you look at it, it's a show that you would struggle to pick holes in in my opinion. It's fast paced, moving, funny and informative and a diamond in the crown of fantastic British theatre.

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