THEATRE: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Review

February 6th, 2016 / Stephane

The National Theatre reception hall was buzzing with press and drama enthusiasts who were all there to see the return of August Wilson’s ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’. Set in 1927 Chicago in a south-side studio, the play depicts the power, passion and struggles that black people faced in that era, especially as musicians.

The cast was outstanding and delivered an amazing performance as they navigated us through each of the band member’s personal stories. With comical punchlines and intense revelations the band not only explains the nature of the music industry in America at that time but also the difficulties that black working men faced. O-T Fagbenle, Clint Dyer, Lucian Msamati and Giles Terera bring great dynamics to the band as they converse and practise in the basement of the studio and unravel their stories.


(Pictured Above: OT Fagbenle with Giles Terera)

Ultz’ set design was thoughtfully put together to make use of the different levels and their representations. Making use of the contradicting subterranean band room with the lofty sealed off booth of the studio managers. Ma Rainey is played by Sharon D Clarke and portrays the diva musician well.

Ma Rainey london

Director Dominic Clarke does a great job in using beautiful iconic blues music as the back drop to situations that many of us can relate to now despite the play being set in 1920’s America. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom was a very reflective production piece that highlights the significance of all our journeys and how those experiences can impact our present perspectives.


The play received a standing ovation and it was a joy to see such a mixed audience who appreciated the great music, dynamic play and established and new talent alike. Definitely a recommended watch!

Listings: Lyttelton Theatre, National Theatre, South Bank, London, SE1 9PX

Dates: 4th February 2016 – 18th May 2016

Ticket Prices: From £50

Supporting Events:

Dominic Cooke – Thu 11th February, 6pm

African American Playwrights – Sat & Sun, 27th & 28th February, 11am

Talk: The Music of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – Wed 16th March, 5.30pm

By Dorcas Payne

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