by Angelina Weld Grimké

30 September – 25 October 2014

“Today, we colored men and women, everywhere - are up against it... In the South, they make it as impossible as they can for us to get educated. In the North, they make a pretence of liberality; they give us the ballot and a good education, and then snuff us out. Each year, the problem just to live, gets more difficult to solve.”

The European premiere

★★★★★ Metropolist
★★★★★ The Public Reviews

Rediscovered by Finborough Theatre Artistic Director Neil McPherson, Rachel is a genuinely lost landmark of American theatre – the first play by an African American woman ever produced professionally. The European premiere – and the world’s first production for nearly 100 years – of Rachel is directed by exciting young director Ola Ince, as part of Black History Month.

Rachel is a young, educated, middle-class woman.

But she is born into an African-American family in the early 20th century – a world in which ignorance and violence prevail.

While her family and neighbours find different ways to survive, Rachel’s dreams of getting married and becoming a mother collide with the tragic events of her family’s past as she confronts the harsh reality of a racist world.

“Our hands are clean; theirs are red with blood. We are destined to failure – they, to success. Their children shall grow up in hope; ours, in despair.”

Written exactly midway between the American Civil War and the end of slavery, and the explosion of Civil Rights in the 1960s, this hauntingly beautiful and profoundly shocking play still asks urgent questions for today.

Rachel was first produced by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1916 in Washington, D.C., and subsequently at the Neighborhood Theater, New York City, and in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with an all-black cast.

Leading African-American historian Alain Leroy Locke said of Rachel that it was “the first successful drama written by a Negro and interpreted by Negro actors.”

About The Playwright Angelina Weld Grimké

Playwright Angelina Weld Grimké (1880-1958) was a poet, dramatist, journalist, teacher, essayist, radical feminist and lesbian icon. She was born in Boston, Massachusetts, into an unusual and distinguished mixed-race family which, within the three preceding generations, included slaveholders and slaves, free black people, white abolitionists, and advocates for women's rights and women's suffrage. She is widely regarded as a leading forerunner of the Harlem Renaissance, the cultural, social, and artistic explosion that took place in Harlem between the end of the First World War and the middle of the 1930s including such seminal figures as James Baldwin and Langston Hughes.

About The Director Ola Ince

Director Ola Ince returns to the Finborough Theatre where she has directed the world premiere of Chris Dunkley's The Soft of Her Palm and May Sumbwanyambe's Back Home Contemplation as part of The Papatango New Writing Festival; and was formerly a Resident Assistant Director at the Finborough Theatre, assisting on Fanta Orange and Blue Serge. Trained at Rose Bruford College in Theatre Directing. Direction includes Treading Air (Bush Theatre), HOT (Invertigo at the Hightide Festival), A Piece of Cake (Tristan Bates Theatre), Pets Corner (Arcola Theatre), One Million Tiny Plays About Britain (The Clare Theatre at The Young Vic), and Games (Pleasance London). Assistant Direction includes Porgy and Bess (Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park), A Taste of Honey (National Theatre), Josephine and I (Bush Theatre), Wild Swans and Disco Pigs (The Young Vic) and Secret Thoughts and The Demolition Man (Octagon Theatre, Bolton).

The Press on Rachel

★★★★★ Metropolist
★★★★★ The Public Reviews
“Simply stunning.” Carole Woddis, Reviewsgate“An intriguing rediscovery...Staged for the first time in nearly a century, this tragedy echoes Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler with absorbing results.” Andrew Dixon, The Guardian“Remarkable... Extreme, terrifying and shocking... The Finborough’s Neil McPherson has done it again with this early 20th century cracker from Angelina Weld Grimké, the first professionally produced play by an African-American woman.” Carole Woddis, Reviewsgate“Here’s a fascinating item indeed. Angelina Weld Grimké’s Rachel should, by rights, be heralded as a classic of 20th Century American drama. Written by Grimké in 1916 under commission for the NAACP, the piece is the first play produced professionally by an African-American woman writer, and one of the first to feature an all Black cast, too. Alas, the play hasn’t been performed since its initial productions, and is only now – almost 100 years on – receiving its European premiere, thanks to the ever-enterprising Finborough who are presenting it as part of this year’s Black History Month. It’s an occasion not to be missed.” Alex Ramon, The Public Reviews"I left the theatre stunned - Rachel is a thoughtful and unforgettable production of an overlooked but timeless classic. This play might be more than a century old, but the writing crackles with contemporary relevance, saying timeless things about race and human dignity that have been rarely said with such effectiveness. And what a production - beautifully conceived and delivered through an exceptional cast - it is jewel that was a privilege to see." Gus Casely-Hayford
 “The emotionally devastating ending validates the Finborough’s decision to unearth it.”, Honour Bayes, The Stage“Ola Ince’s perfectly-pitched production reveals the piece to be a deeply humane drama that gestures outwards towards a wider social picture but that does so through a relatable, intimate and entirely domestic framework.” Alex Ramon, The Public Reviews

“The play is absorbing when at its most Ibsenite, capturing the pressures and tensions of growing up in what amounts to an unholy American lie” Andrew Dixon, The Guardian

“Benefiting enormously from the right-there intimacy of the tiny Finborough, and from a lovely, fond design by Alex Marker and Anna Lewis, Ince’s production ensures that every emotional beat and nuance of the play communicates; the piece’s humour, deep sadness and underlying rage are brought vividly – yet delicately – to the fore” Alex Ramon, The Public Reviews

“'Angelina Weld Grimké’s Rachel should, by rights, be heralded as a classic of 20th Century American drama.'” Alex Ramon, The Public Reviews

“A mother and daughter move into the building, the little girl so frightened by intimidation at school that she cannot speak. And that silent, bullied little girl, you can’t help thinking, would have been born at about the same time as Rosa Parks.” Andrew Dixon, The Guardian

“But if Rachel was only about the domestic picture its historical and social significance would be interesting but not create the extraordinary emotional impact it delivers.” Carole Woddis, Reviewsgate

“Angelina Weld Grimke (1880-1958) was an extraordinary woman and her play...is also extraordinary.” Honour Bayes, The Stage

“If you’re not familiar with the works of the African American writer Angelina Weld Grimké (1880–1958), you’re not alone. Despite being a pioneering poet and essayist, a forerunner of the Harlem renaissance, she has largely been written out of history. Her play Rachel – produced here as part of Black History Month – is an intriguing rediscovery” Andrew Dixon, The Guardian

“Grimké dares to look within the souls of her characters and with a laser-like beam, searches out the inner damage inflicted by racism on the most vulnerable and their prospects for the future.” Carole Woddis, Reviewsgate

“Scaldingly precise about the hypocrisies of life for black people in the northern states” Andrew Dixon, The Guardian

“Written 40 years before Lorraine Hansberry’s ground breaking A Raisin in the Sun...Rachel emerges as an early fore-runner of the consciousness raising plays so distinctive of British feminist drama of the 1980s but adds to it the devastating sense of blight, despair and disillusion wrought by prejudice.” Carole Woddis, Reviewsgate

“Angelina Weld Grimké’s writing drips with the crushing poetry of personal experience” Rachel Holmes, The Metropolist

“Adelayo Adedayo as Rachel is superb” Honour Bayes, The Stage

“Adelayo Adedayo makes the heroine’s disillusionment a heart-wrenching move from vivaciousness to a kind of haunted hysteria.” Alex Ramon, The Public Reviews

“Adelayo Adedayo shines in the title role and script is stunning.” Caitlin McMillan, Culture Whisper (On Twitter)

“Adelayo Adedayo as Rachel is a bright shining star.” Amy Guyler, WhatsOnStage

“Miquel Brown is beautifully contained, grave and perceptive as the seamstress matriarch” Alex Ramon, The Public Reviews

“Zephryn Taitte brings great charm and charisma to his characterisation of Rachel’s optimistic suitor.” Alex Ramon, The Public Reviews

“The set, costumes and Max Pappenheim’s delicate sound design are sophisticated and impressively textured.” Honour Bayes, The Stage

“Rachel has taken a disgracefully long time to reach our shores, but Ince’s exquisite production is a must-see.” Alex Ramon, The Public Reviews

The Press on Director Ola Ince's Production of The Soft of Her Palm at the Finborough Theatre

“The production is simple, slick and invasive, it will unsettle you and make you think, what more do you want from a night at the theatre.” The Good Review

“The stage direction was impeccable in delivering these scenes with disturbing conviction.” Everything Theatre “The production is well paced and continuity between the scenes is neatly and seamlessly achieved under Ola Ince’s direction.” One Stop Arts

“Skilfully directed by Ola Ince with an excellent cast.” UKTheatre

30 September – 25 October 2014

Tickets and Times

Tuesday 7:30pm
Wednesday 7:30pm
Thursday 7:30pm
Friday 7:30pm
Saturday 3:00pm (from second week of the run)
Sunday 3:00pm

Approximately two hours and 30 minutes including interval