Katori Hall’s powerful play depicting Martin Luther King Jr’s last night before he was assassinated in 1968 is compelling to watch from start to finish.

Ronke Adékoluejo and Gbolahan Obisesan  in The Mountaintop at the Young Vic Theatre© David Sandison

This special online reading of The Mountaintop is just as powerful as it would be seeing it live on stage – with two dynamic performances at the centre of it that makes this compelling to watch unfold.

Directed by Roy Alexander Weise, who also directed a production of the play back in 2016 at the Young Vic Theatre, the play is filled with passion and anger while exploring different visions of the civil rights movement seen through the eyes of two charismatic characters.

Set on the 3rd April 1968, Dr Martin Luther King is working on a speech in his hotel room when hotel maid Camae delivers a cup of coffee. But she is there also for another reason. As the pair chat, flirt and argue their different visions of how they see the civil rights movement, the play uncovers a lot of pain and anger on both sides as the tension ebbs and flows between the pair.  

Katori Hall’s play effectively shows just how these two characters – fighting for the same cause but are doing so in very different ways. While the charismatic King uses his education to make a difference, the sassy and street-smart Camae prefers the Black Panthers. This makes for an interesting battle of wits and brought vividly to life through two dynamic performances. Every conversation between the pair has plenty of bite and makes you sit up and pay attention. But it is also a play that has some lovely twists and turns along the way that gives it an extra edge – with the final moments in the play excellently portrayed in this version.

Gbolahan Obisesan as Martin Luther King offers a charismatic and engaging performance – capturing the way in which he uses words to powerful effect, but also the way he humanises him by allowing the audience to see him in a different light including the fact his feet smell and is frightened of thunder. These moments of vulnerability are touching to witness. In contrast,  Ronke Adékoluejo as Camae is equally as bold – the way in which she is able to switch from flirtatiousness to being sharply confrontational is so precise and is brilliantly performed.

Throughout it all, Roy Alexander Weise captures every element of this play in a vivid and unique way – including narration that really makes every little moment of the play between the characters talking feel extremely vivid and the way that design is incorporated is also a lovely touch.

Overall, this is a very thought-provoking play that gets the audience sitting up and paying attention to what is being said. This is a fantastic reading in which everything feels as though you are there with the characters experiencing their story with them. Hopefully when this is all over it will be brought back to the stage once more so that more audiences get to experience this story for themselves.

By Emma Clarendon

The Mountaintop is available to watch here until the 15th June.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐