Northampton hosts UK première of Katori Hall play

Published: 6 January 2019

Gabrielle Brooks, Michelle Asante and Ery Nzaramba lead the cast of Our Lady of Kibeho, Katori Hall’s play which has its UK première at Northampton’s Royal and Derngate.

Our Lady of Kibeho was hailed “the most important play of the year” by the Wall Street Journal when it premièred in New York in 2014.

The play is set in 1981 in Rwanda. Schoolgirl Alphonsine claims the Virgin Mary has appeared to her in the village of Kibeho, warning of the unimaginable: her country becoming hell on earth. Her friends ignore her and her teachers Sister Evangelique and Father Tuyishime scold her. Then other students see the vision.

Gabrielle Brooks takes the role of Alphonsine. She played Viola in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at the Young Vic in 2018.

Michelle Asante is Sister Evangelique. She played Salima in Lynn Nottage’s Ruined at the Almeida Theatre in 2010.

Ery Nzaramba, who has collaborated extensively with Peter Brook, leading the casts of Theatre des Bouffes du Nord international tours of Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne's The Prisoner at the National Theatre in 2018 and Battlefield at the Young Vic in 2016, takes the role of Father Tuyishime in Our Lady of Kibeho.

The cast also features Michaela Blackburn, Ibinabo Jack, Pepter Lunkuse, Michael Mears, Keenan Munn-Francis, Yasmin Mwanza, Rima Nsubuga, Ewart James Walters and Leo Wringer. The professional cast is complemented by the Royal and Derngate community ensemble and members of the theatre’s young company.

Our Lady of Kibeho is directed by Royal and Derngate artistic director James Dacre who was at the helm of Hall’s The Mountaintop when it premièred at Theatre 503 in 2009. It won the Olivier Award for Best New Play in 2010.

Composer is Orlando Gough, design is by Jonathan Fensom, lighting designer is Charles Balfour and sound designer Claire Windsor. Movement director is Diane Alison-Mitchell, Duncan McLean is video designer, musical director is Michael Henry and Hazel Holder is voice and dialect coach. John Bulleid is illusions consultant and Vicki Amedume is aerial consultant.

Katori Hall said, “I’m beyond ecstatic to work with James again and to bring Our Lady of Kibeho to the UK for the first time. In these turbulent times, I hope this piece will spark a dialogue within Royal and Derngate’s surrounding community and beyond about healing cultural, political and racial divides.”

Our Lady of Kibeho takes to the Royal stage in Northampton from Saturday 12 January until Saturday 2 February. Press night will be Wednesday 16 February.

Steve Orme