Staging MLK's last day alive

Theatre Kingston evokes both inspiration and laughter in their production of The Mountaintop

Actor Michael Blake plays Martin Luther King Jr. in Theatre Kingston’s production of The Mountaintop.
Actor Michael Blake plays Martin Luther King Jr. in Theatre Kingston’s production of The Mountaintop.
Supplied by Aidan Bergin

The Mountaintop takes the glorified image of Martin Luther King Jr. and puts him on stage as a humanized and relatable man.

The 95-minute, one-act play directed by Rebecca Benson, is set in the small motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, where King was assassinated. 

King, played by the enormously talented Michael Blake, comes home from a rally to get ready for the next day. When he orders room service, he meets the maid Camae, played by Natasha Mumba. 

King and Camae spend the night talking about topics ranging from King’s actions as a civil rights leader to his smelly feet. 

The dialogue between them is inspiring, tragic, funny and touching. It’s nothing short of a masterpiece. 

The Mountaintop is unique in its two-person cast. Blake and Mumba, the only actors cast for the show, are both actors of colour. 

“A lot of people, in the arts and elsewhere, preach diversity but they don’t necessarily implement that at a programmatic level. This, to me, provided me with an opportunity to very clearly provide opportunities for two amazing actors who happened to be actors of colour,” Artistic Director for Theatre Kingston Brett Christopher, said. 

“Natasha, who we’d never met before, was this dynamo actor and we knew that she would be perfect for the role of Camae,” he added. “I proposed Michael ... and we were so taken with his [audition] tape that we cast him on the spot.”

The play is also unique in its portrayal of Martin Luther King Jr. The civil rights activist’s rightful place in history can make it difficult to portray a character who’s relatable to the audience. But Benson, Blake and playwright Katori Hill achieved that by creating a character that was realistic and true-to-life. 

“The play itself tries to remove some of that god figure out of Martin Luther King,” Christopher said. “He’s shown as that kind of real guy, real man. He smokes, he’s funny, he’s tired, he’s real.” 

The play comes at a time when King’s historic battle for the rights of black people in America are ever increasingly resonant. With movements like #BlackLivesMatter demanding equality, The Mountaintop tells us that despite his formidable status, Martin Luther King Jr. was a regular person who created great change, and we can too. 

“He asks us to pick up the baton and carry on the fight for equality,” Christopher said. 

“If we think ‘he’s super human, how on earth can I do that?’, if the play doesn’t bring him down to human status, we’d be like ‘I’m not worthy of your asking me’, but if he seems like a regular guy, then we’re probably more likely to connect to him and to the play on that level.”

The Mountaintop runs from Oct. 29 to Nov. 15 at the Domino Theatre. 

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.