This summer, Royal & Derngate Northampton and Hackney Empire will co-produce the world première of Soul, a new play by Roy Williams about the family life of soul legend Marvin Gaye. Directed by James Dacre and designed by Jon Bausor, Soul takes to Northampton’s Royal stage from Friday 20 May to Saturday 11 June, before its run at Hackney Empire from Wednesday 15 June to Sunday 3 July.
On April Fool’s Day 1984, hours before his 45th birthday, Marvin Gaye was shot dead by his father in the shared family home they called the ‘Big House’. What happened there has since been shrouded in mystery.
Revealing the events that took place during Marvin Gaye’s haunting final days and exploring his extraordinary life, Soul is a parable about an American family crushed by fame – a searing portrait of the dark side of the American dream.
Written by award-winning Roy Williams (Sucker Punch, Days of Significance) in close collaboration with members of Marvin Gaye’s family, this play with music will feature Royal & Derngate’s and Hackney Empire’s celebrated community choirs. Original instrumental music has additionally been composed and recorded for the production by Marvin Gaye’s close musical collaborator Gordon Banks, widely considered to be one of soul music’s great guitarists.
Adjoa Andoh (Invictus, Adulthood, Julius Caesar, RSC) and Leo Wringer (As You Like It, National Theatre; Blackta, Perseverance Drive, Young Vic) play the central roles of Marvin’s parents, Alberta and Marvin Gay Snr.
Petra Letang (Holby City, EastEnders and leading roles at the National Theatre, Royal Court and Young Vic) and Mimi Ndiweni (Mr Selfridge; Warner Bros’ The Legend of Tarzan; Wendy and Peter, Taming of the Shrew, RSC) will play Marvin Gaye’s sisters Jeanne and Zeola Gay.
Rising stars Nathan Ives-Moiba (As You Like It, National Theatre; Our Country’s Good, Out of Joint) and Keenan Munn-Francis (The Scottsboro Boys, The Lion King) play the role of Marvin Gaye as an adult and teenager respectively. Abiona Omonua (The Colour Purple, Menier Chocolate Factory; Legally Blonde, West End) will play Tammi Terrell.
Soul is directed by Royal & Derngate’s Artistic Director James Dacre. The Designer is RSC Associate Artist Jon Bausor, who designed the opening ceremony of the 2012 Paralympic Games and the critically acclaimed historic trilogy The James Plays for National Theatre of Scotland and the National Theatre.
The Musical Director is Joseph Roberts (Rudy’s Rare Records, Birmingham Rep and Hackney Empire) and the production features the Royal & Derngate Community Choir in its Northampton performances and the Hackney Empire Community Choir for its London run.
Soul was commissioned by Bob Blagden and Barbara Cole. The play was inspired by Jeanne Gay’s memoir Bitter Sweet, interviews with Jeanne and Zeola Gay amongst many others and further extensive research.