Photo of a man with a banner around his neck reading Strike Captain
European Premiere

Big White Fog

By Theodore Ward
Ticket prices: £6 - £29.5
Fri 11 May 2007 - Sat 30 Jun 2007

"For strong gripping drama and splendid, heartfelt acting, the show is hard to beat...outstanding"
Daily Telegraph

"A long-lost gem...an excellent company...a riverting production"
Daily Mail

Chicago, the Twenties, and Victor Mason is fighting to keep his dreams alive and his family together
His devotion to the separatist Back to Africa movement clashes with the family’s pursuit of the American Dream.
Set against the Great Depression and inescapable racism, Big White Fog is as poignant today as it was when it burst upon American 70 years ago.

Born in Louisiana in 1902, Theodore Ward was a pioneer among African-American playwrights. At age 12, he walked the rails north working his way across America as a bellhop and bootblack before writing over 30 plays including his most famous Our Lan’ which enjoyed a successful and award-winning run on Broadway.

In 1937, his first major work Big White Fog, opened amid controversy in Chicago. In 1938 Ward co-founded The Negro Playwrights’ Company in New York alongside Paul Robeson, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright and other prominent black dramatists, their first production at The Lincoln Theatre was Big White Fog.

Almeida Artistic Director Michael Attenborough’s acclaimed productions include Playing with Fire at the National Theatre, and The Mercy Seat, The Late Henry Moss, Enemies and There Came A Gypsy Riding for the Almeida Theatre.

Cast: Ayesha Antoine, Tony Armatrading, Martin Barron, Aaron Brown, Lenora Crichlow, Clint Dyer, Jenny Jules, Tunji Kasim, Al Matthews, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Novella Nelson, Susan Salmon, Danny Sapani, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Glynn Sweet, Tony Turner.

Watch the trailer, featuring film of rehearsals and exclusive interviews with the cast.

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Big White Fog - The Cast
Photo of Ayesha Antoine

 

Ayesha Antoine plays Caroline

 

Ayesha's theatre work includes The Firework Maker's Daughter at the Lyric Hammersmith, Wam Bam! at the National Theatre and Blaggers at Theatre Royal Stratford East. On television she has been seen in The Bill, Holby City and Grange Hill.

Photo of Tony Armatrading

Tony Armatrading plays Daniel

 

He has worked with the RSC in numerous productions, including Fair Maid of the West directed by Trevor Nunn, The Constant Couple directed by Roger Michell and Macbeth directed by Adrian Noble.  His film and television credits include Notting Hill, The Saint, Colour Blind and Return to the River Blood, as well as regular parts in Grange Hill, Chalkface and Brookside.

Photo of Martin Barron

Martin Barron plays a patrolman

 

Martin has appeared at the Almeida Theatre in Enemies, The Late Henry Moss and Brighton Rock. Other work includes The Invisibles at BAC and The Adventures of Tom Thumb for Blue Scream Theatre.

Photo of Aaron Brown

Aaron Brown plays Nathan

 

Aaron’s previous theatre work includes a one year tour of the UK with the Reduced Shakespeare Company, in Completely Hollywood, which premiered at the 2005 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  He has also completed two seasons with Chaplins Panto.  Aaron’s other credits include the upcoming film Death Defying Acts directed by Gillian Armstrong and staring Guy Pearce & Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Photo of Lenora Critchlow

Lenora Crichlow plays Claudine

 

She recently starred in the hit Channel 4 drama Sugar Rush as well as appearances in Doctor Who, The Bill and Bella and the Boys.  Her film credits include Rehab and Wilderness.  On stage she has performed in 93.2FM at the Royal Court.

Photo of Clint Dyer

Clint Dyer plays Percy

 

His recent theatre work includes A Carpet, A Pony and A Monkey  at the Bush Theatre and Sus at the Theatre Royal Stratford East. He also appears in the upcoming movie Bean II and on television has appeared in Trial and Retribution and The Commander.

Photo of Jenny Jules

Jenny Jules plays Ella

 

Her theatre work includes Fabulation, Gem of the Ocean, Walk Hard, Talk Loud, The Promise and The Colour of Justice all for the Tricycle Theatre, Born Bad at Hampstead and When we are Married at Birmingham Rep.  Her television credits include Casualty, Golden Hour, Judge John Deed and I Saw You.

Photo of Tunji Kasim

Tunji Kasim plays Lester

 

Theatre work includes Of Mice And Men at the Oran Mor theatre and Mazeppa at the Edinburgh Festival.

Photo of Al Matthews

Al Matthews plays Count Strawder

 

Theatre work incudes Two Trains Running and Jo Turners Come And Gone at the Tricycle Theatre, Driving Miss Daisy at the Watermill Theatre and Hapgood at Wimbledon Theatre and the Aldwych Theatre.  Al has also appeared in many films including Tomorrow Never Dies and Fifth Element.

Photo of Gugu Mbatha Raw

Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays Wanda

 

Theatre work includes Romeo and Juliet and Anthony and Cleopatra at the Manchester Royal Exchange and Car Thieves and Transmissions at Birmingham Rep. Film work includes Act of God and on television she has been seen in Dr Who and Spooks.

Photo of Novella Nelson

Novella Nelson plays Martha

 

Novella Nelson was last seen on the London stage in the critically acclaimed Raisin in the Sun at the Young Vic and Lyric Hammersmith.  On Broadway her credits include Having Our Say, The Little Foxes, Caesar and Cleopatra, Purlie and Hello, Dolly!  She has starred in numerous films including Antwone Fisher, Head of State, Clockers, Birth and Green Card.

Photo of Susan Salmon

Susan Salmon plays Juanita

 

Theatre work includes The Sugar Wife and The Office at Soho, Macbeth for Out Of Joint and Shoot To Win at Theatre Royal Stratford East. Television includes The Golden Hour.

Photo of Danny Sapani

Danny Sapani plays Victor

 

Danny Sapani’s numerous theatre credits include The Overwhelming and His Dark Materials at the National Theatre, Julius Caesar at the Globe, Macbeth at the Arcola Theatre and Never Land at the Royal Court.  On television he has appeared in Blue Murder, Little Britain, Serious & Organised and In Deep, and will be seen in the new BBC series, Holby Blue to be aired this spring.

Photo of Nathan Stewart Jarrett

Nathan Stewart-Jarrett plays Count Cotton

 

Nathan is appearing in A Chain Play at the Almeida Theatre. A recent graduate of Central School of Speech and Drama, he has also appeared in Brixton Stories at the Lyric Hammersmith.

Photo of Glynn Sweet

Glynn Sweet plays a bailiff

 

Glynn last appeared at the Almeida Theatre in Enemies. Other theatre work includes The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs at Cheltenham Everyman Theatre and La Lupa and The Rivals at the RSC.

Photo of Tony Turner

Tony Turner plays Marks

 

Tony last appeared at the Almeida Theatre in Enemies. Other theatre work includes Playing With Fire and The UN Inspector at National Theatre and The Madness of George III at West Yorkshire Playhouse. Television includes Derailed and Foyles War.

 
Creative Team

Director

Michael Attenborough


Design

Jonathan Fensom


Lighting

Tim Mitchell


Sound

John  Leonard

 

 
 
Reviews

"For strong gripping drama and splendid, heartfelt acting, the show is hard to beat." 

Daily Telegraph, 21 May

Read this review in full 

 

"Michael Attenborough's fine production" **** (four stars)

The Guardian, 18 May 2007

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"I doubt if there exists a more enthralling or important play about the struggle of blacks to survive in pre-second world war America than Big White Fog...a drama which extends one's awareness of life, resounding with justified anger and passion."  **** (four stars) 

Evening Standard, 18 May 2007

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"superb production" **** (four stars) 

What's On Stage, 18 May 2007

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"Michael Attenborough has unearthed another politically fiery and historically illuminating gem here"

The Independent on Sunday, 20 May 2007

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"A rich slice of social history" **** (four stars) 

The Independent, 21 May 2007

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***** (five stars)

Time Out, 23 May 2007

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"This is a tremendous staging of a terrific play..." 

The Stage, 25 May 2007

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Big White Fog Video Trailer

View the Big White Fog trailer to see exclusive footage of the cast in rehearsal as well as interviews with cast members Danny Sapani and Jenny Jules, and Director Michael Attenborough talking about the production.

 

 
 
Theodore Ward - Playwright

 

James Theodore (Ted) Ward was born on September 15th 1902 to John and Louise Ward in Thibodaux Louisiana, 40 miles west of New Orleans. He was the sixth of eleven children. His father was born into slavery, and became a devoutly religious schoolmaster who sold patent medicines and books to supplement his income.

 

While still a young boy, Ted wrote a small play and showed it to his father who proclaimed it to be “the work of the devil” and threw it on the fire. When Ted was twelve his mother died, the family broke up and he ran away from home. He rode the freight trains north, and travelled extensively, working variously as a bell-hop, shoe-shine boy, and barber shop porter. He finally ended up in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he was briefly jailed, began to write again, and attended the University of Utah. He entered a story in a magazine contest, winning first prize. As a result, a Utah newspaper editor, Gale Martin, encouraged him to apply for a Zona Gale creative-writing scholarship which he won, allowing him to attend the University of Wisconsin from 1931-1933 where he hosted a radio show and gained a reputation for his dramatic readings.

 

Having moved to Chicago in 1934, he wrote a one-act play called Sick ‘n’ Tiahd, which was produced in 1937 and won him second prize in a drama contest sponsored by the Chicago Repertoire Group; the winner was Richard Wright, who encouraged him to join the South Side Writers Workshop and to write a full-length play. This play became Big White Fog, completed in 1937 and produced by the Negro Unit of the Chicago Federal Theatre Project (FTP) in 1938.

 

Ward then wrote several more plays: Even the Dead Arise, The Falcon of Adawa, Skin Deep and an adaptation of Richard Wright’s short story Bright and Morning Star. In 1939 he came to New York in the chorus of the FTP's The Swing Mikado.

 

In 1940 he joined Langston Hughes, Paul Robeson, Theodore Browne, Richard Wright and Alain Locke in forming the Negro Playwrights Company based in New York City. Their first production was a revival of Big White Fog at the Lincoln Theatre in Harlem. Also in 1940, he married Mary Sangigian, an Armenian-American social activist. They had two daughters, Laura and Elise, and were married for 23 years. Mrs. Ward died earlier this year aged 95. This production of Big White Fog is dedicated to her.

 

In 1947, Ward's historical drama Our Lan’ was produced off-Broadway at the Grand Street Playhouse, transferring to Broadway’s Royale Theatre and winning him the Theatre Guild Award. That same year he was named Negro of the Year by the Schomberg Collection of the New York Public Library. Ward was later a recipient of the John Simon Guggenheim and National Theater fellowships for playwriting.

 

Further plays include Shout Hallelujah!, John Brown, Of Human Grandeur, Madison, John de Conquerer, Candle In The Wind, Whole Hogor Nothin', Charity, Throwback, The Daubers, The Bell and The Light, and Big Money. Ted Ward was also a renowned and respected poet.

 

During the 1940's and '50's, Ted Ward struggled to make a living solely as a writer. During World War II, he contributed to the war effort by writing news and broadcasting scripts for the Office of War Information. With the 1953 appointment of Senator Joseph McCarthy as Chair of the House Un-American Activities Committee, Ward's career as a progressive writer, like those of so many artists and intellectuals, was almost completely suppressed until the re-emergence in the 1960's of black theater, black nationalism, and a re-discovery by younger black dramatists of his work and his outspoken voice.

 

Ward returned to Chicago in 1963 to head the Louis Theatre and School of Drama at the South Side Centre for the Performing Arts. During the 1970’s he was playwright in residence for a year as at the University of Massachusetts and for several seasons at the New Orleans Free Southern Theatre.

 

In 1977 in recognition of his many accomplishments, contributions, and prestigious awards, the Mayor of Chicago declared April 23 of that year as Theodore Ward Day. In 1985, Columbia College Chicago established the Theodore Ward Prize for African American Playwriting, awarded annually to emerging and established black playwrights.

 

Theodore Ward died on May 8 1983.

 
Photo of Theodore Ward
 
Arts Council England ASP Group