Resistance Theatre Company brings its first production to the Fringe, starring Christopher Tajah as Dr Martin Luther King Jr in Dream of a King. Directed by Bernie C. Byrnes, written and performed by Tajah and featuring vocals from sister Paulette Tajah, this play is a heartfelt portrayal of the man the world thinks it knows, from a perspective that shows the humanity behind the orator.
The overarching strength of this play is the dedicated, world-creating performance of Tajah. His impression of Martin Luther King Jr. is engaging. Set on the night before his assassination in a Tennessee motel room, the play uses artistic licence and true events to portray King’s state of mind on the night before his death. The staging is sparse, but the extant props are carefully chosen, and there is limited but thoughtfully designed lighting. Tajah uses the stage to its full advantage, addressing all three sides of the audience and engaging them in the personal hopes and fears of King.
The driving point made by Tajah’s performance is to highlight King’s humanity. Rather than focussing solely on King’s established public persona, the play discusses his paranoia about violence creeping into the Civil Rights Movement and the pressure of the constant press and public scrutiny. There is a big red phone on a desk centre-stage, which causes King anxiety when it rings, and the audience is made privy to the sheer exhaustion of King’s life. King also explains to us that while Rosa Parks is remembered as the person who defied the Jim Crow segregation laws on that bus in Montgomery, a similar action was carried out by Claudette Colvin and several other women months earlier. This focus on details and nuances in the widely-known narratives of King and the broader Civil Rights Movement is one of the play’s greatest strengths, reminding us of the importance of compassion and reading beyond the headlines in today’s polemic world.
Tajah’s one-person performance is broken only by a vocal performance from his sister Paulette Tajah, which provides variety and helps to accentuate the dialogue parts of the show. It is clear that the sibling performers are both dedicated to the play and support each other greatly.
The show leaves the audience in a sombre yet warm place, and even garners a well-deserved standing ovation from various audience members. Overall, the team behind this play have evidently worked hard bringing it together, and its important content and zealous execution are just two reasons to buy a ticket.
Dream of a King is on at theSpace Triplex – Studio (Venue 38)
Until 24th August at varying times
Get tickets here
Image: Peter Williams