Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

National Theatre

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

02 Feb 2016 - 18 May 2016

£15.00 - £55.00

Pro reviewers rating
13 reviews

4.2 out of 5.0
Peer reviewers rating
1 reviews

5.0 out of 5.0

Chicago, 1927. In a recording studio on the city’s South Side, a battle of wills is raging.

Ma Rainey, Mother of the Blues, uses every trick in the book to fi ght her record producers for control of her music. Hardened by years of ill-treatment and bad deals, she’s determined that ‘Black Bottom’, the song that bears her name, will be recorded her way.

But Levee, the band’s swaggering young trumpet player, plans to catapult the band into the jazz age. His ambition puts them all in danger.

Inspired by the real-life Blues legend and infused with her music, August Wilson’s play speaks powerfully of a struggle for self-determination against overwhelming odds.


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“Simply overwhelming... very possibly, the finest Ma Rainey yet... Something near-miraculous. ”

Matt Wolf (Arts Desk)

“The dialogue swings to a musical rhythm... A production that is near perfect... Authentic... Drop-dead brilliant. ”

Neil Norman (Express, The Stage)

“Cooke’s production is terrific... Plays jazz-like variations on more than one theme... A superb cast... Whip-sharp plotting. ”

Susannah Clapp (The Observer)

“Immensely powerful production... The powerhouse delivery of Sharon D Clarke in the central role of Ma Rainey is exhilarating. ”

Mark Shenton (The Stage, London Theatre, Express)

“Good play, good jazz, great acting... Clarke could almost have been made for the part... Terrific turn. ”

Quentin Letts (Daily Mail)

“A whip-sharp ensemble... So quick, so tart and so very funny... Each is individually brilliant... Genius plotting. ”

Matt Trueman (What's On Stage, Time Out)

“Wilson’s real focus, gloriously realised in Cooke’s lively production, is Ma’s four-piece band... Lovely work from Msamati. ”

Fiona Mountford (Evening Standard)

“A play of passion and power that, in Cooke’s excellent revival, gets some major performances... Fagbenle is electrifying. ”

Michael Billington (The Guardian)

“Richly detailed ensemble acting... does glowing justice to the masterly mix of hurt and humour in this 1984 play. ”

Paul Taylor (The Independent)

“The blueswoman [is] played with bulletproof brio by Sharon D Clarke in this sharp revival... The dialogue flows like a dream. ”

Dominic Maxwell (The Times)

“Superb Clark... Dyer, Msamati and Terera are excellent under Cooke’s subtle direction, and Fagbenle is truly mesmerising. ”

Michael Arditti (Express)

“Clarke is brilliantly scary, with the best diva stare... Cooke has coaxed brilliant performances out of the boys in the band. ”

West End Whingers

Reviews (0)