Hansberry's Masterpieces Undergo Major RevivalsDate: 23 April 2001
Two acclaimed works by the African-American playwright Lorraine Hansberry are set for major new UK productions. Les Blancs, her first major play, is at Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre, running until 12 May. It was posthumously staged in 1970, and this is the first time it has been produced outside America.
Also, a joint production between Salisbury Playhouse and The Young Vic Theatre Company will bring A Raisin In The Sun to both venues. The show runs in Salisbury from 11-26 May, before heading to the Young Vic in early June.
Hansberry, who died in 1965 at the age of 33, was the first black woman to be produced on Broadway. Les Blancs is a large-scale epic that explores the conflicts and personal tragedies behind the formation of contemporary Africa. The central character, Tshembe, is played by Paterson Joseph (pictured) who has also performed widely with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Commenting about the production, co-director Greg Hersov said: "It is a real privilege to direct this play, as it's a lost contemporary masterpiece of major theatrical performance."
A Raisin In The Sun, which hasn't been seen in London for 15 years, is set in Southside Chicago and portrays the aspirations of Walter Lee Younger. Dreaming of taking his family out of their pokey apartment, he watches his fortunes collapse and then rise again. The play was the first successful Broadway drama about the black experience by a black writer, and won Hansberry the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play. It also opens the Young Vic's season of early works by great American playwrights.
Despite her early death, Hansberry's achievements as an artist and civil rights campaigner are still widely noted. Martin Luther King Jr commented on her "creative literary ability and profound grasp of deep social issues confronting the world."
- by Gareth Thompson