Les Blancs / National Theatre
Submitted By Emilie Chen
Written by civil-rights activist Lorraine Hansberry, and brought to the stage in 2016 by South African director Yaël Farber, ‘Les Blancs’ (the Whites) tells the story of Tshembe, an African man who returns home from Europe to find that racial tensions and anti-colonialist feelings have brought his country to the brink of civil war. The Woman, a mysterious character, haunts him at night, urging him to join the fight.
The play was scheduled to play in the National Theatre biggest auditorium (1127 seats) but the title was little-known, in a foreign language, and with no big names attached to the production, there was extra pressure on the image to unpack the themes in the show.
I was inspired by African face paintings and archive images of a Civil Rights activist with the word 'Vote' written across his face to create a portrait of The Woman emerging from the darkness and confronting the audience with her gaze.
There were no actors cast at that stage, but Yaël loved the concept and agreed to cast an actress for the shoot.
We commissioned Franklyn Rodgers, a Black photographer whose Black British actors portrait series had been exhibited on the streets of Peckham, South London. Helen Casey, the deputy head of the National Theatre Wig, Hair and Make-up studio wrote the words across the actress' face.
The campaign on the underground boosted ticket sales before the show opening.
To promote a new production of 'Les Blancs' a little-known play with no famous actors attached, playing in the National Theatre biggest auditorium (the Olivier, 1127 seats).
National Theatre in-house design studio