Red Velvet

Red Velvet

by  Lolita Chakrabarti

Full Length Play, Drama  /  5m, 3f

It's like being at a crossroads - a point of absolute, unequivocal change. It makes the blood rush.

Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, 1833. Edmund Kean, the greatest actor of his generation, has collapsed on stage whilst playing Othello. A young black American actor has been asked to take over the role. But as the public riot in the streets over the abolition of slavery, how will the cast, critics and audience react to the revolution taking place in the theatre?


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  • Cast Size

    Cast Size

    5m, 3f
  • Duration

    Duration

    120 minutes (2 hours)
  • SubGenre

    Subgenre

    Period, Docudrama/Historic
  • Accolades

    Accolades

    Most Promising Playwright London Critics Circle Award 2012 & London Evening Standard Charles Wintour Award 2012; Best Actor London Critic Circle Award 2012; Nominations for Olivier Award 2013; Whatsonstage Awards 2012 for London Newcomer of the Year & Best New Play
  • Audience

    Target Audience

    • Adult
    • Teen (Age 14 - 18)

Additional Info

It's like being at a crossroads - a point of absolute, unequivocal change. It makes the blood rush.

Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, 1833. Edmund Kean, the greatest actor of his generation, has collapsed on stage whilst playing Othello. A young black American actor has been asked to take over the role. But as the public riot in the streets over the abolition of slavery, how will the cast, critics and audience react to the revolution taking place in the theatre?

Lolita Chakrabarti's play creates imagined experiences based on the little-known, but true, story of Ira Aldridge, an African-American actor who, in the nineteenth century, built an incredible reputation on the stages of London and Europe.

Red Velvet received its world premiere at the Tricycle Theatre, London, on 11 October 2012, starring Adrian Lester as Ira Aldridge. It was revived at the Tricycle Theatre on 23 January 2014, before transferring to St Ann's Warehouse, New York, on 25 March 2014.


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Accolades

  • WINNER - Most Promising Playwright, Lolita Chakrabarti, Evening Standard Award & Critics' Circle Award

Reviews



REVIEWS

"Shock waves rarely travel across centuries. But at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, where Lolita Chakrabarti’s 'Red Velvet' opened on Monday night, YOU CAN EXPERIENCE FIRSTHAND WHAT IT MUST HAVE FELT LIKE TO BE PART OF ONE SERIOUSLY RATTLED LONDON THEATER AUDIENCE IN 1833."

- New York Times, Read More 

"Red Velvet is the play to see. A superb ensemble directed by Indhu Rubasingham from Lolita Chakrabarti’s excellent script. The audience was clearly awestruck."
- The Huffington Post, Read More 

"Frankly, thrilling. [Red Velvet] burns the place down."
- Time Out New York, Read More

"...the best new play of the 2013-14 season."
- Showbiz 411, Read More

"It’s a cracker of a play: gripping, intelligent and passionate."
- Financial Times, Read More

Adrian Lester on playing Ira Aldridge:
"I have to play him at 26, 27 and 67. Its quite hard doing both parts and I try to treat them as almost separate parts because the play tries to show the change in the character between those ages. Its quite a strong change, quite a big one. Some theater is fun, some theater passes the time, some theater is a bit of a laugh. But I hope that this play will be among those pieces of theater thats important." 

RELATED ARTICLES ON BREAKING CHARACTER 

An Analysis of Othello in Red Velvet
by Cristina Malcolmson 
September 29, 2017

The Timeline of Ira Aldridge
by Lolita Chakrabarti
March 25, 2015

Videos

  • Red Velvet preview
  • Red Velvet returns - Tricycle Theatre from Jan 2014
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Considerations

Performing Groups

  • College Theatre / Student
  • Community Theatre
  • Professional Theatre
  • Reader's Theatre
  • Large Stage
  • Blackbox / Second Stage /Fringe Groups

Cautions

  • Caution Mild Adult Mild Adult Themes

License details

  • Minimum Fee: $75 per performance

Production

Details

  • Time Period: Victorian (British and American), 19th Century
  • Duration: 120 minutes (2 hours)
  • Setting:

    A Theatre dressing room, Lodz, Poland 1867

    Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, London, 1833.

  • Additional Features: Not Applicable
  • Features / Contains: Period Costumes

Casting

5m, 3f

CASIMIR - White male, 20’s, German speaking Polish stage-hand. Inexperienced, low status and likes Halina
HALINA WOZNIAK – White female, 20’s. Polish journalist.  Bright, ambitious, frustrated with her life.
TERENCE – White male, 50’s, English, Ira Aldridge’s valet and dresser.  Loyal, hard working.
IRA ALDRIDGE – Black male, 60, American, a leading actor.  Grand, impatient, ferocious and unwell.
CONNIE – Jamaican female, any age, experienced, servant. Older than her years and the voice of truth
BETTY LOVELL – White female, 20’s, English, actress.  Self concerned, not clever but pleasant.
HENRY FORESTER – White male, 20’s, English actor.   Political, self -interested, ambitious and earnest.
BERNARD WARDE - White male, 50’s, English, actor. Old school, a bit lazy, opinionated and insecure.
CHARLES KEAN – White male,  30’s,  English, actor (son of Edmund Kean). Grand but without the talent to support it. Suffers from being Edmund’s son.
ELLEN TREE – White female, late 20’s, English, a leading actress. Talented, motivated, classical but progressive.
PIERRE LAPORTE – White male, mid 30’s, French, manager of the theatre.  Gay, revolutionary, entrepreneurial.
IRA ALDRIDGE – Black male, 26,  American, actor. Ambitious, keen, passionate and optimistic.
MARGARET ALDRIDGE – White female, 30’s, English, wife of Ira Aldridge, plain. Solid, trustworthy, Ira’s rock.

*Red Velvet is an imagined version of true events. Some of the characters are based on real people – Ira Aldridge (1807-1867), Margaret Aldridge (1798-1864), Pierre Laporte (1799-1841), Charles Kean (1811-1868), Ellen Tree (1805-1880).

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Cast Attributes

  • Reduced casting (Doubling Possible)
  • Expandable casting
  • Flexible casting
  • Multicultural casting
  • Strong Role for Leading Man (Star Vehicle)

Casting Notes

In UK & US premieres of Red Velvet, the role of Ira Aldridge (at age 26 & 60) were played by the same actor; however, the play can also work with two actors playing Aldridge at these differing points in his life.

Suggested doubling:
Casimir / Henry Forester
Halina Wozniak /  Betty Lovell / Margaret Aldridge
Terence / Bernard Warde
Ira Aldridge age 26 / Ira Aldridge age 60

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Authors

Lolita Chakrabarti

Lolita Chakrabarti is an award winning Actress and Writer. She has worked extensively as an actress on stage and screen. As a writer Red Velvet is her debut play. (Evening Standard Charles Wintour Award for Most Promising Playwright 2012; Critics Circle Award for Most Promising Playwright 2012; ...

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Red Velvet premiered at the Tricycle Theatre in London in 2012, under the direction of Indhu Rubasingham. 

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