Visit to Bloomsbury Publishing

By Nick P Canty, on 7 February 2013

Bloomsbury Institute

On Monday the Evening Standard awarded Lolita Chakrabati the Charles Wintour award for most promising playwright.

Bloomsbury is one of the closest publishing companies to UCL, and a few of us attended a Bloomsbury Institute literary event to hear  a discussion about the play Red Valet with the Bloomsbury author Lolita Chakrabarti and the actor Adrian Lester, who played the lead role in the play at the Tricycle theatre in Kilburn.

Red Velvet is an imagined experience based on the true story of the 19th-century African American actor Ira Aldridge. The setting is Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, 1833. Edmund Kean, the greatest actor of his generation, collapsed on stage whilst playing Othello. A young black American actor was asked to take over the role, at a time when there were public riots in the streets over the abolition of slavery. The play considered how the cast, critics and audience reacted to the revolution taking place in the theatre.

The discussion centered on how the writer covered what is a moving personal story against the backdrop of the wider debate about the abolition of slavery then being debated in parliament, with a reading from the play by Lester.