The Almeida Theatre has launched the second series of Figures of Speech, its major digital film project interrogating the vitality of speech, the power of performance, and what visionary leadership sounds like.
The first instalment of series two is released today with Cush Jumbo delivering Malcolm X’s controversial 1965 speech ‘The Language of Violence’ and continues with one film released each week over the next month featuring actors Noma Dumezweni, John Heffernan, Derek Jacobi and Russell Tovey.
They will perform significant speeches from politicians, activists and philosophers throughout history. The new films continue to examine what leadership means and the power of the spoken word in the 21st century with an increased focus on rhetoric that initially received a hostile reaction and remains both divisive and provocative.
Figures of Speech places history’s greatest speeches centre stage through an anthology of films read by a range of actors released online, building a concert of dynamic voices and ideas from across the world as a dramatic response to social crisis.
Series One, which was launched in May, featured speeches delivered by American politician Harvey Milk spoken by Ian McKellen; Nelson Mandela spoken by Lucian Msamati; Virginia Woolf spoken by Fiona Shaw; AIDS activist Elizabeth Glaser spoken by Nicola Walker; and Labour Party Politician Neil Kinnock spoken by Ashley Walters.
Figures of Speech is available for free via a dedicated mini-site: speech.almeida.co.uk
Alongside a growing anthology of films, the microsite also includes additional material exploring the speeches, the context within which they were first delivered and the choice to revive them in 2017. The site features guest-authored articles and filmed reactions from each performer alongside an audience of people from local communities who have direct connections to the themes explored. To complement the films, inspiring young leaders aged 15 – 25 from across London have been invited to respond with a speech of their own, crafted through an Almeida Participation programme, inviting previously unheard voices to share the platform.