Explosive Rivers of blood speech revisited in Lyceum play

Ian McDiarmid as Enoch Powell in What Shadows at the Royal Lyceum
Ian McDiarmid as Enoch Powell in What Shadows at the Royal Lyceum
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IT WAS a landmark in British politics, a divisive speech that focussed the country on the need to embrace its new multi-cultural make-up, and one that had the power to divide a nation.

In What Shadows, Chris Hannan’s new play, which opens at the Royal Lyceum tonight, Midlands MP Enoch Powell, having delivered his 1968 Rivers of Blood speech, reflects, “I was a storm. I was also a man entirely alone in a storm. There were forces beyond my control and I was one of them.”

Fast forward to 1992. Oxford academic and daughter of a Caribbean immigrant, Rose Cruickshank, wants answers.

Enoch’s controversial words about immigration shattered her childhood. Now she wants to know what led him to say them.

Will a meeting with the man himself allow her to find the inner peace she desperately craves?

Starring Star Wars’ Ian McDiarmid - he played Emperor Palpatine - and directed by Roxana Silbert, What Shadows run at the Grindlay Street theatre until 23 September.

Appearing alongside McDiarmid will be Waleed Akhtar, Ameet Chana, Amelia Donkor, Nicholas Le Prevost, Joanne Pearce, and Paula Wilcox, still fondly remembered as Chrissy Plummer in the hit seventies sitcom Man About The House.

Silbert says, “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.”

What Shadows, Royal Lyceum, Grindlay Street, until 23 September, 7.30pm (mat 2pm)£10-£32, 0131-248 4848