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A Monthly Culture Matrix For the Cosmopolitan Traveler

Rockets and Blue Lights


National Theatre / London / Stage

When Winsome Pinnock’s play Taking Leave was performed at the National Theatre in 1994, she became the first Black female playwright to have her work staged at the London venue. Opening August 25, Pinnock’s latest play Rockets and Blue Lights was inspired by a J. M. W. Turner painting of a ship at sea. Ultimately titled Slave Ship, Turner originally called the work Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying—Typhoon Coming On, leading one of Pinnock’s characters to ask, “Why does he make something so ugly beautiful?” Moving between the present day and 1840s England, Pinnock’s play tells two stories: one focuses on a 21st-century Black actress disillusioned by the industry, and the other is about a 19th-century Black sailor preparing for his final voyage. Together their stories reveal how little has changed. —B.A.

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