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Ian McDiarmid as Enoch Powell in What Shadows at the Park Theatre (Photo: Ellie Kurttz)

Ian McDiarmid as Enoch Powell in What Shadows at the Park Theatre (Photo: Ellie Kurttz)

Ian McDiarmid to lead Park’s What Shadows

Published 10 August 2017

The Olivier and Tony Award-winning actor Ian McDiarmid, best known for his portrayal of Star Wars’ Emperor Palpatine, will lead Chris Hannan’s cutting play What Shadows at the Park Theatre this Autumn.

McDiarmid will star as MP Enoch Powell in an explosive examination of the politician’s controversial Rivers of Blood speech on immigration. Bringing to life the community that inspired it, the play follows the speech’s effect three decades later on a woman contemplating her life.

Centring on Rose Cruickshank, Oxford academic and daughter of a Caribbean immigrant, the play explores the implications of Enoch’s controversial words for her whole life. Unable to find the inner peace she craves until she understands his motives for a speech that defined a generation, Rose seeks out a meeting with the man himself.

The play will also star The Vicar Of Dibley’s Nicholas Le Prevost, along with Amelia Donkor, Paula Wilcox, Waleed Akhtar, Ameet Chana and Joanne Pearce. Former RSC Associate Director Rozana Silbert will direct Hannan’s play, whose former hits include Shining Souls at The Old Vic.

Silbert said of What Shadows, “As we near the 50th anniversary of Enoch Powell’s explosive ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech, the nation finds itself again facing profound and difficult questions about national identity and attitudes to immigration.”

“Chris’s powerful play is a scorching interrogation of prejudices and how a bitterly divided country moves forward in the wake of a crisis. It couldn’t be more necessary.”

McDiarmid has previously starred in films including Sleepy Hollow, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Gorky Park and Dragonslayer, and his recent theatre credits include the title role in A Life Of Galileo for the RSC and Shylock in The Merchant Of Venice at the Almeida. He won an Olivier Award for Best Actor in a New Play in 1982’s Insignificance at the Royal Court, and a Tony Award for his role in Faith Healer on Broadway in 2006.


What Shadows plays at the Park Theatre from 27 September to 28 October. You can book tickets through the venue’s website.


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