Michael Attenborough, Artistic Director of the Almeida Theatre, will direct the European Premiere of African-American playwright Theodore Ward’s Big White Fog.
Big White Fog will open on 11 May with press night on 17 May and runs until 30 June. Designs are by Jonathan Fensom with lighting by Tim Mitchell and sound by John Leonard.
Big White Fog is set in Chicago between 1922 and 1933 and follows the lives of the Mason family and the pursuit of their different and opposing beliefs, as they steer a course through post WW1 racism and the Great Depression.
Supported by wife Ella, Vic’s loyalty is to Marcus Garvey’s separatist Back to Africa movement, while his brother-in-law Dan is committed to the American Dream, believing that the black community can and will prosper and succeed.
Ward’s landmark family drama reveals how these battling factions fare during this raw and vivid period of American history.
The cast includes: Ayesha Antoine (Caroline), Tony Armatrading (Daniel Rogers), Martin Barron (Patrolman), Aaron Brown (Nathan Piszer), Lenora Crichlow (Claudine), Clint Dyer (Percy Mason), Jenny Jules (Ella), Tunji Kasim (Lester), Al Matthews (Count Strawder), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Wanda), Novella Nelson (Martha Brooks), Susan Salmon (Juanita), Danny Sapani (Victor Mason), Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (Older Phil/Count Cotton), Gynn Sweet (Bailiff) and Tony Turner (Marks/Lieutenant).
Tony Armatrading has worked with the RSC in numerous productions, including Fair Maid of the West directed by Trevor Nunn, The Constant Couple directed by Roger Michell and Macbeth directed by Adrian Noble.
His film and television credits include Notting Hill, The Saint, Colour Blind and Return to the River Blood, as well as regular parts in Grange Hill, Chalkface and Brookside.
Lenora Crichlow recently starred in the hit Channel 4 drama Sugar Rush as well as appearances in Doctor Who, The Bill and Bella and the Boys. Her film credits include Rehab and Wilderness. On stage she has performed in 93.2FM at the Royal Court.
Jenny Jules’ theatre work includes Fabulation, Gem of the Ocean, Walk Hard, Talk Loud, The Promise and The Colour of Justice all for the Tricycle Theatre, Born Bad at Hampstead and When we are Married at Birmingham Rep. Her television credits include Casualty, Golden Hour, Judge John Deed and I Saw You.
Novella Nelson was last seen on the London stage in the critically acclaimed Raisin in the Sun at the Young Vic and Lyric Hammersmith. On Broadway her credits include Having
Our Say, The Little Foxes, Caesar and Cleopatra, Purlie and Hello, Dolly! She has starred in numerous films including Antwone Fisher, Head of State, Clockers, Birth and Green Card.
Danny Sapani’s numerous theatre credits include The Overwhelming and His Dark Materials at the National Theatre, Julius Caesar at the Globe, Macbeth at the Arcola Theatre directed by Max Stafford-Clark and Never Land directed by Steven Pimlott at the Royal Court.
On television he has appeared in Blue Murder, Little Britain, Serious & Organised and In Deep, and will be seen in the new BBC series, Holby Blue to be aired this spring.
American dramatist and author of more than 30 plays Theodore Ward was born in Louisiana in 1902, the sixth child of eleven. His father, born into slavery, was the local schoolmaster, his mother, who secretly educated him, died when he was 14.
As a result of the consequent break-up of his family, Ward travelled on the railroad as a boy hobo, performing odd jobs wherever he could find them. He finally settled in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he was jailed for selling bootleg gin.
After winning second prize in a writing competition he joined the Chicago Writers’ Workshop, who, in 1938, produced his first full length play, Big White Fog.
It was then produced in Harlem in 1940 where it was presented as the first play to be staged by the Negro Playwrights’ Company – formed by Ward, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright and Paul Robeson, amongst others, to provide a working theatre for Negro artists. Ward lived and worked in Chicago from 1968 until his death in 1983.
As Artistic Director of the Almeida Theatre Company Michael Attenborough’s productions have been The Mercy Seat, Five Gold Rings, Brighton Rock, The Late Henry Moss, and Enemies.
His critically acclaimed production of Frank McGuinness’ There Came A Gypsy Riding has recently completed a sell-out run at the Almeida. On leaving the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he was Principal Associate Director, he was invited to become an Honorary Associate Artist. In 2005 Michael Attenborough directed the world premiere of David Edgar’s Playing with Fire at the National Theatre.
Michael Attenborough’s production of Big White Fog will be the first to be produced outside America. As part of the Tricycle Theatre’s extensive and continuing commitment to plays, old and new, by black writers, their Literary Manager (now the Almeida’s Artistic Associate) came across Theodore Ward’s Big White Fog. We are truly grateful to the Tricycle for their co-operation.
Novella Nelson is appearing with the permission of UK Equity, incorporating the Variety Artistes’ Federation, pursuant to an exchange programme between American Equity and UK Equity.