phone mail2 facebook twitter play whatsapp
Interview with director Roy Alexander Weise on ‘The Mountaintop’ at the Young Vic
Image Credit: © Dr. Ernest C. Withers, Sr. courtesy of the WITHERS FAMILY TRUST.

Interview with director Roy Alexander Weise on ‘The Mountaintop’ at the Young Vic

2 October 2016 Natasha Sutton-Williams

Katori Hall’s Oliver-award-winning play 'The Mountaintop' transports us to Room 306 of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. It is April 3rd 1968, the eve of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, who has just delivered his renowned oration, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”. London Calling caught up with director Roy Alexander Weise to discuss the political gesture of this humorous, powerful and even fantastical play.

London Calling: You recently won the James Menzies-Kitchin Award receiving £25,000 to put on this production. Why did you choose The Mountaintop as the play you wanted to direct?
 
Roy Alexander Weise: I remember reading it the first time. I got up really early, had breakfast whilst reading it, made my way to work, got on a bus so it would take me longer. I got towards the end of the play when King is at the mountaintop. He’s prophesying about the future of humanity. I looked around me and there was this sense of how everything is relative. It was like, ‘I’m here in London as a young black man as a result of slavery which is linked to the Civil Rights Movement. The experience of Black America ultimately impacts the black experience the world over because in America black people can be hugely successful and incredibly oppressed at the same time’. It was shocking how relevant everything was. Like Larry Pain, the sixteen-year-old boy who was shot in 1968 by the police. I remember the trauma of hearing about Trayvon Martin being killed with a packet of skittles in his hand and a can of ice tea in 2012. That scenario epitomises innocence. It’s unjust. They were both kids. I was overwhelmed by how loud the play resounded.
 
LC: What first attracted you to Katori Hall’s writing?
 
RAW: She’s hilarious. She’s bold. She’s confrontational. She’s unapologetic. She has a voice that is honest; a voice that comes from someone who understands pain and loss. She’s imaginative and isn’t afraid to stretch the form of theatre and the way we receive stories.
 
LC: How do we get more BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) artist’s work seen in the theatre?
 
RAW: There are lots of BAME artists but people are so closed-minded they don’t necessarily look to those artists as the people who are available for telling stories that exist outside of the black experience. You don’t get the opportunity to see who those artists really are because there aren’t enough theatres programming work by BAME artists not just about the black experience but about every experience. If you are waiting two years for an epic black play to be produced more often than not a white theatre director will direct it. I think some theatres need to do a lot more work seeking out those artists and giving them the opportunity to work on plays that are not singularly about the black experience. If we wait for only those opportunities to continue to develop and grow as artists, how many steps behind every other artist will we be? However, there are people who are doing amazing work with organisations like Artistic Directors of the Future which is becoming a brilliant hub of creativity and support for BAME artists.  
 
LC: With political activist groups like Black Lives Matter protesting across the globe, how does this play resonate for black people in the UK today?
 
RAW: I think we are in a place in London and all over the world where people are starting to realise again what the power of protest means. That it is an interruption, it should be an interruption, a bold interruption, because it shows firmly what your political stance is on an idea. It shows firmly that people are angry and that things are unjust. Peaceful march and peaceful protest were Dr. King’s way of making steps in terms of his agenda. We are in a very scary time right now because some of the leading Western societies are displaying a real fragility in terms of structure. That is something that makes people nervous.
Race has such a connection with economics. Capitalism has been founded on the idea of racism. King’s ideas are still so relevant when current conversations about our financial position as a society and as individuals push us to make decisions about who should be here and who shouldn’t. It’s all about fear, change and difference.
 
LC: Racism is still hugely prevalent in our society. What do you personally think we can do to fight against it?
 
RAW: We are in a privileged position being in London where women and men are proud feminists, people campaign loudly about Black Lives Matter, people campaign about the issues that affect the LGBTQ community, there are disabled people who are massive activists, but there is a missing link between those groups. That link is something King was trying to get people to realise: that the experiences of the marginalised altogether, that the collective voice, is the thing that has most power. Acting collectively is something we are so afraid to do in a society where we are taught to look after ourselves and our own.
 
The Mountaintop plays at the Young Vic Theatre from 7 – 29 October. For more information and to book tickets please visit the website.

For information on the James Menzies Kitchin (JMK) Award, please visit the website.

Tell us what you think

You may also like

Exclusive discount on Titanic The Musical and Evita tickets

Churchill Theatre - Exclusive discount on Titanic The Musical and Evita tickets

Experience this summer the ups and downs of these captivating musicals based on real historical stories, accompanied with extraordinary music and lyrics.

Theatre on the Tea Lawn at Lauderdale House

Theatre on the Tea Lawn at Lauderdale House

The picturesque Tea Lawn outside Highgate’s historic Lauderdale House is brought to life with music, theatre and live events this summer!

Sounds and Sorcery

Sounds and Sorcery

The Vaults are transformed! Gone is the grotty central tunnel with its damp and humid caves branching off. Through a newly created side entrance you…

Hidden gems at the Camden Fringe Festival

Hidden gems at the Camden Fringe Festival

This year’s Camden Fringe Festival has a jam-packed programme of new work, but with everything from chat shows to experimental sound pieces, it can be hard...

Cubitt Sessions at King’s Cross

Cubitt Sessions at King’s Cross

Experience King's Cross' eclectic live music programme all for free!

I’m an intersectional feminist unicorn!

I’m an intersectional feminist unicorn!

When a dramaturg from the other side of the world urges you to go see a show by a fellow Kiwi who is “at the forefront…

“Terrorism is what society has been taught to be most afraid of”

“Terrorism is what society has been taught to be most afraid of”

Playwright Cordelia Lynn is no stranger to the Royal Court. Having been a member of their Young Writers Programme, her first major play Lela &…

Top 5: Star Gazing in the West End

Top 5: Star Gazing in the West End

One of the really exciting things about living in London (well in our theatre crazy minds anyway) is that some seriously big names of film…

Her Life Is a Cabaret - Margo: Half Woman, Half Beast at JW3

Her Life Is a Cabaret - Margo: Half Woman, Half Beast at JW3

Was there ever a more glamorous period in history than 1920s Berlin? A world full of subversive art, culture and of course, cabaret, Weimar Germany…

Win 2 Tickets to an Immersive Disney Fantasia Experience!

The Vaults - Win 2 Tickets to an Immersive Disney Fantasia Experience!

This summer, the exciting underground world of The Vaults presents Sounds and Sorcery celebrating Disney Fantasia.

Most popular

Win 2 Tickets to an Immersive Disney Fantasia Experience!

The Vaults - Win 2 Tickets to an Immersive Disney Fantasia Experience!

This summer, the exciting underground world of The Vaults presents Sounds and Sorcery celebrating Disney Fantasia.
Win a £100 Gift Voucher for the National Theatre!

National Theatre - Win a £100 Gift Voucher for the National Theatre!

Be in with a chance of winning our exclusive National Theatre voucher, which you can exchange for tickets or theatre tours!
Win a Joan Crawford themed evening with cocktails, manicures & millinery!

BFI - Win a Joan Crawford themed evening with cocktails, manicures & millinery!

"I never go outside unless I look like Joan Crawford the movie star. If you want the girl next door, go next door"
Exclusive discount on Titanic The Musical and Evita tickets

Churchill Theatre - Exclusive discount on Titanic The Musical and Evita tickets

Make the most of the Summer with these two unmissable London musicals! With exclusive London dates for both productions
10% off entry to London’s first ever immersive Wild West cocktail bar!

Moonshine Saloon - 10% off entry to London’s first ever immersive Wild West cocktail bar!

Saddle on over to the Wild West of London on the promise of making a fortune in the seedy and illicit world of moonshining. 
Magically speaking…

Magically speaking…

We talked to designer Kitty Callister ahead of the Vaults exciting new immersive “Disney Fantasia” experience.
The Best of Food in July

The Best of Food in July

Where will we be eating this month?
Win a DVD copy!

A Wrinkle in Time - Win a DVD copy!

Dive into Ava DuVernay's magical world of time and space travel...
Spotlight on: Gay’s the Word

Spotlight on: Gay’s the Word

In honour of Pride today we are giving center stage to the UK's only remaining LGBTQ+ bookshop.
Top 5 World Cup Screenings in London

Top 5 World Cup Screenings in London

Football fever is catching on…

Your inbox deserves a little culture!!