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Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

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Closed May 18, 2016

"A terrific revival. Sharon D Clarke leads a superb cast in this knockout production."

The Observer

Why See Ma Rainey's Black Bottom?

An American classic

The National Theatre continues its tenure under Rufus Norris, producing more interesting works than ever before, touching on a diverse range of subjects and breathing life into forgotten classics, old and new. One of these is the revelatory Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, the first in August Wilson's Pittsburgh Cycle of plays that narrate the black experience in the 20th Century.

Starring West End veteran Sharon D Clarke as the real life Mother of the Blues, Ma Rainey, this tight ensemble piece examines black history against white exploitation as Ma and her band try to cut a new disc in a Chicago recording studio. Whilst Ma is an imperious diva in her studio, both her and her quarrelling band find themselves stuck below the all-white producers and engineers as they wrestle back creative control in this poignant and electric battle of will.

However, secondary conflict between the band members themselves explodes as the young upstart trumpeteer ostracises his two bandmates - he is desperate to carve out his own career as leader of his own group. When the promise made to him by the white producer comes to nothing, his temper takes an out of control spin, leading to tragedy for everybody there.

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Additional Information


Previews from: 7 March 2016

Opening night: 7 March 2016


Suitable for ages 13+ due to strong and racially charged language

Run time

Two hours and 35 minutes including one intermission

And before you stop reading

Closed captioned performances: Saturday March 26th & Monday April 19th. Audio described performances: Friday April 29th & Saturday April 30th.

Cast and Creative


Sharon D Clarke as Ma Rainey
John Paul Connolly as Policeman
Tamara Lawrance as Dussie Mae
Tunji Lucas as Sylvester
Irvin as Finbar Lynch
Stuart McQuarrie asSturdyvant
Lucian Msamati as ToledoClint Dyer as Cutler
Giles Terera as Slow Drag
Levee as O-T Fagbenle
Stephen Fawkes as Understudy Sturdyvant/Irvin
Teri Ann Bobb-Baxte as Understudy Dussie Mae
Ricardo Coke-Thomas as Understudy Toledo/Cutler
Kadeem Pearse as Understudy Sylvester/Slow Drag
Lucy Vandi as Understudy Ma Rainey

Jermaine Dominique as Understudy Levee


Written by August Wilson
Directed by Dominic Cooke


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Additional Information

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