Review: An Octoroon, Orange Tree Theatre or this is why I go to the theatre
The first thing I have to say is 'thanks' to @mildlybitter. I'd not heard of An Octoroon or Branden Jacobs-Jenkins but she recommended his play which is having its European premiere at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond and I'm so glad she did.
Jacobs-Jenkins has taken Dion Boucicault's 1850s play but made it a play within a play by putting both himself, played by Ken Nwosu, and Boucicault (Kevin Trainor) into the story. But more than that. They talk directly to the audience, argue with each other and also play several of the characters in the original play. It's brilliantly Brechtian, meta and, with a Bre'r-rabbit running around, surreal but I'll come on to all that.
In Boucicault's The Octoroon George (Nwosu) returns home to Louisiana from Paris to find Terrebonne, the plantation he has inherited is about to be repossessed. Local heiress Dora (Celeste Dodwell) fancies him and marriage to her could secure the plantation - and the slaves it keeps. But George has fallen for Zoe (Lola Evans) the illegitimate daughter of his uncle from his relationship with a slave who has been brought up as part of the family.
The villain of the piece is wealthy Jacob M'Closky (also played by Nwosu) who wants Zoe for himself despite her having spurned his advances. M'Closky intercepts a cheque which could save Terrebonne and also discovers something about Zoe's legal status which he decides to use to his advantage.
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