BWW INTERVIEWS: Katori Hall Of The Mountaintop At The OLIVIERS 2010

Miriam Zendle talks to the Olivier Award-winning playwright...

So excited to meet you, Katori, and you sound like you're pretty excited too! You must be thrilled!

[Squeals] I am thrilled!

Did you ever think when you were first writing this that this would be the outcome of all that hard work?

No! I just wrote it because... it's funny, it wasn't a commission, it was a story inspired by my mother, who grew up around the corner from the motel and who wanted to go hear his last mountain-top speech, but because there were rumours of a bomb threat she didn't go. When she told me that story when I was a young person, I was like 'oh, that's incredible, you didn't get to hear his last speech, and then the next day he was assassinated'. For me, it was about giving in to his mind, into his last days and looking at what his last initiatives were, like the Poor People's Campaign. A lot of people don't know that King was delving into politics that encompass class, rather than race, and a lot of people aren't very cognoscent of that. I feel like I wanted to put that to the forefront and remind people that he was about so many different things beyond the issue of civil rights. For me, writing the play was more about my mother, it was more about me learning about my history. For people to embrace my own kind of personal experiment is quite incredible.

How did you feel when you heard your name called?

I jumped up! I was like 'oh my god, this is incredible'. It's so funny, cos at my table, I was like 'you guys can come up with me if I win'. Totally joking, and when I heard I was like 'DAVID, COME UP WITH ME!!!' It was... this play wouldn't be what it was if I didn't have those amazing actors and that amazing director.

I was talking to Lorraine and she said that some black Americans said if you did that in America, you'd get lynched. You are taking it to the States, so how do you think they'll handle it?

I think the response will be different, but will still be visceral. Just as it was visceral here, but it may be visceral in a different way. But I still believe it's going to make some people mad, but at the same time I believe it's going to ignite an interest in King and what he stood for. I feel as if the play doesn't make up anything. Of course it is fictionalised, but it's all based in truth supported by scholarship. I feel as though there will be some controversy - there already has been some controversy surrounding the play, but I welcome it, because I feel the play is not about making everyone feel perfect and comfortable, but it's about actually starting a conversation and that's what I'm excited about.

Are you writing another play at the moment?

I'm writing so many different plays. I'm writing plays about Rwanda, I'm writing plays - I have a play called Saturday Night Sunday Morning set in a beauty shop in the 1940s. I have so many things!


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