Theatre in Wales

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DOWNTOWN PARADISE by MARK JENKINS Race riots in the predominantly black suburb of Ferguson, St. Louis in Missouri, have created a timely backdrop for the new Wales tour from actor-producer Michael Kelligan that opens next week (September 10).

Mark Jenkins’ play Downtown Paradise is a bold drama, based on a true story that recalls how Rachel Bloom, a radical Jewish lawyer, falls for her imprisoned Black Panther client in 60s USA.

Kelligan has assembled a star cast for the brave and cutting-edge with the central characters played by Habib Nasib Nader and Catriona James.

Kelligan said, “The play is set in smart apartments in Hong Kong and New York but mostly in a rough prison cell in California. Designer Jessica Scott’s set reflects my minimalist approach to stage scenery allowing the writer,s words to create the pictures. This really is a timeless piece based on the relationship of two strong, very different individuals. A towering figure, Black Panther leader James Wilson, first imprisoned for a petty crime is now on trial for his life while Rachel Bloom is a committed and gifted lawyer determined to fight for the dignity of human rights. Wilson declares that she’s become ‘the only friend I have ever had’ in his prison cell.”

Habib most recently played the lead role of Vimak the Goliath in the film “Dungeons and Dragons 3: The Book of Vile Darkness”, appeared in “Law and Order UK” and featured in three series of “Little Britain”, playing Gregory, the Prime Minister’s personal secretary and rival of David Walliams’ character Sebastian. Habib has also just finished filming the Keith Allen production of Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood in Solva.
Catriona James has worked with National Theatre Wales and internationally renowned German dance company Dorky Park on the dance-theatre piece

“Branches: the Nature of Crisis”, in which The Telegraph described her as “a standout in a wonderful cast”. Her success saw her invited to Berlin by Dorky Park to collaborate on a re-imagining of the piece last year. Catriona was also in director Grant Scicluna’s film “Hurt’s Rescue” which premiered recently at the Melbourne International Film Festival.

In a break from rehearsals Habib said, “Downtown Paradise is an amazing passionate play. I am finding rehearsals exciting and I am sure audiences will be on the edge of their seats absorbing every moment of this gripping play. The play is full of many surprises, some will delight and amuse, some are very telling comments on human society.”

Catriona said, “I just feel really fortunate to be working on this play, with such a great character - Rachel, with her passion and drive to change the world for the better, is the sort of person I could only dream of being. And it’s been eye-opening to explore the connections of the play to the world around me”.

First performed as one of Michael Kelligan’s On the Edge script held performances in 2012, critics described the play as a fascinating journey, engaging, and, on occasion, darkly humorous. A powerhouse of emotion!

Cardiff-based Mark Jenkins, London born with a Welsh father, is best known for his play “Playing Burton” that has been translated into several languages and continues to be produced across the globe. It was recently made into a feature film and shown on Sky Arts 2

Chapter, Cardiff Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, September 10, 11, 12, 13, 8pm
Tickets £12/10/8 (02920 304400)
Taliesin Art Centre, Swansea, Thursday, September 18, 7.30pm
Tickets £10/7 (01792 60 20 60)
The Riverfront, Newport, Thursday, September 25, 7.45pm
Tickets £10.50/£8.50 (01633 656757)
Neuadd Dwyfor, Pwllheli, Thursday, October 2, 7.30pm
Tickets £8.50/7 (01758 704088)
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Sunday, August 31, 2014back



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