"Racial tensions and complex relationships"
by Jill Lawrie for remotegoat on 08/08/19

Nicholas Wright’s play “Rattigan’s Nijinsky” premiered at Chichester in 2011 and now in the 2019 Festival season his play “8 Hotels” is making its world premiere. All four cast members too have their Chichester debuts in this play, which is based on true events though does not profess to be an accurate record of them.

Beginning in 1944 with the celebrated singer, actor and political activist Paul Robeson touring America as Othello, alongside his friends Uta Hagen as Desdemona and her husband Jose Ferrer playing Iago. However, cracks begin to appear in the trios off stage relationships as infidelities are revealed arousing anger, jealousy, resentment and ultimate betrayal. As the tour continues racial prejudice, segregation and victimisation is hideously exposed and by the time the play ends in 1956 Robeson has had his passport taken away and his health is rapidly deteriorating.
Richard Eyre directs this snapshot of the eloquent, charismatic black activist Paul Robeson whose father was born in slavery. Paul as a young man was an athlete, law graduate, and rose to prominence for his cultural accomplishments but he always maintained he was primarily a civil rights activist using his fame as a platform.
Rob Howell’s minimalist set of a basic hotel room serves throughout with merely a change of bedspread and video locations to depict the changing hotels.

Tory Kittles takes the lead role as the African-American Paul Robeson and gives a fine impassioned performance as the spirited political artist. He captures the intimacy of this moment in time with great skill. Emma Paetz shines with a gripping and emotional portrayal of her obsessional adulterous affair with Robeson, while Ben Cura astutely observes the character of the Broadway star Jose Ferrer. His performance bristles with dramatic tension as he cynically converses with his wife’s lover.

A skilfully drawn and informative exploration into this complex love triangle, set against the racial tensions of the American Civil Rights Movement.

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