Afridiziak Theatre News Gallery:
The Amen Corner – in rehearsals, National Theatre [Images by Richard Hurbert Smith]

Published: Thursday, May 30, 2013 8:03 AM

The Amen Corner – in rehearsals, National Theatre
Words: Gillian Fisher
Published: May 30, 2013

One of the most exciting parts of my job is getting a glimpse into the processes and personalities that make up a production. You can’t get more ‘behind the scenes’ than a live rehearsal so I was thrilled to be invited to one at the National Theatre. The Amen Corner stars Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Harlem pastor Sister Margaret whose authenticity as a preacher had me sitting up straight. Walking into Rehearsal Room 2 felt like gate-crashing a private Sunday service. The gospel chorus filled the room with much jingling of tambourines and stamping of feet but it was during the sermon that the drama really began. Jean-Baptiste took centre stage to instruct her flock “Get thy house in order” and will clearly not accept any excuses. The actress owns the stage, lifting up her voice and waving a napkin around with fervour. She even manages to sound authoritative on the couple of occasions that she asks for a prompt.

As this wasn’t a dress rehearsal most of the cast were in jeans and hoodies making it all rather intimate. The odd touches such as lace gloves and closely gripped handbags gave a hint of the production’s 1965 setting. I got to watch an hour of the rehearsal before the director called it a wrap, sadly just as the plot was getting particularly thick. Sister Margaret is just as unrelentingly stubborn in her kitchen as she is in her pulpit, which is causing conflict. There is dissention in the flock and friction between herself and teenage son David. That friction reaches the point of combustion when estranged husband Luke arrives on the scene with a battered satchel and a very different version of past events. The few minutes I saw of Lucian Msamati’s performance were excellent; an arrogant and sardonic wideboy with a very sectarian sense of humour.

Playing from the 4th of June on the Olivier stage my sneak peek left me in no doubt that The Amen Corner will be receiving much praise.

Info: The Amen Corner by James Baldwin is at the National Theatre from 4 June to 14 August 2013

Related links

Afridiziak reader offer – get top price tickets for £29.50 to see The Amen Corner
See more rehearsal pics from The Amen Corner
Watch a behind the scenes trailer for The Amen Corner with Marianne Jean Baptiste

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