Review – The Mountaintop, Trafalgar Studios

The Mountaintop by Katori Hall invites us into the motel room in which Martin Luther King (David Harewood) spends his last night before his assassination and through an encounter with a maid (Lorraine Burroughs) to whom there is more than meets the eye.

The portrait painted of King is complex: he comes across as impassioned, god-fearing and brave, but also vain, lascivious and, as the evening reaches its surprising climax, terribly afraid. There’s certainly no doubt as to which side we are to be on – King remains a saint, even with his vices and despite his denials – but the presentation here is wonderfully human and wonderfully real.

The twist, which I won’t spell out here, is beautifully managed, despite some fairly dodgy stagecraft (and some of the least realistic theatrical lightning ever to grace the London stage) and the change of pace in the production is immediate and convincing.

Both actors here are superb. Harewood manages to evoke King without ever veering into parody and offers a thoroughly convincing presentation of the famous man. Burroughs has, in some ways an easier job, but the way in which she plays her strength and her vulnerability off against one another are deserving of high praise.

At 80 minutes with no interval* the production is tightly paced and leaves one almost breathless at the end when one thinks how far we’ve come in a short period of time. A superb achievement.

The Mountaintop runs until 5 September at Trafalgar Studios (book tickets here) after which Lenny Henry will be in to play Othello.

* According to signs on the doors there is strictly no admittance to latecomers so I would advise arriving on time, but actually a lot of people there last night seemed to spend their time doing little else other than walking in and out of the auditorium, so no need to rush yourself at the bar