I watched Red Velvet at the Garrick Theatre and give it a 4/5 rating.
It was a well-researched, flawlessly written play. It maps out the controversy around Theatre Royal and Ira Aldridge, the first black Shakespearean actor. For a play set in the past, the undertones of society are so smoothly woven in. Written by Lolita Chakraborthy, it feels like it was with Adrian Lester in mind that the play took shape and he wears Ira Aldridge like a glove.
The young, ambitious and overconfident Ira Aldridge takes on the powerhouse of London Theatre. While his colleagues eventually warm up to him, the public is outraged and reviews are mostly about his blackness and stereotyped "monstrosity" rather than his or his colleagues' acting prowess. His fury, disappointment and hurt (in that order) are apparent when eventually the director (and originally his only believer) decides to let him go because Ira refuses to tone down his emotional acting that the press finds very beastly. He leaves London never to return but becomes one of the most celebrated thespians of his time.
We see him as an old man playing King Lear and metaphorically as well, as he still remembers his hurt from many years ago and becomes devoid of happiness in spite of his rather well received career. Just before the curtain, you see that he smears his face with enough make up to make him a white man. Such a small gesture yet very chilling ! All of a sudden his agony is apparent.
I absolutely loved it. I liked the story and I think Adrian Lester is amazing. The sets and use of stage could have been better.