Hansberry's sun shines again

David Lan revives the first play by a black woman to be shown on Broadway

David Lan, the artistic director of the Young Vic Theatre, is a dab hand at dusting off neglected classics from the shelf and giving them a new lease of life. The hits of the former anthropologist and writer-in-residence at the Royal Court include Doctor Faustus with Jude Law in 2002 and a translation of The Cherry Orchard, directed by Trevor Nunn at the National in 2000.

It was Lan's bright idea to revive David Rudkin's Afore Night Come, directed by Rufus Norris - of Festen acclaim - in 2001, and more recently Thornton Wilder's comedy The Skin of our Teeth, which Lan directed last year. "Despite it being a very famous play, it hadn't been seen since in London for 45 years," he says.

Lan is also behind the musical Simply Heavenly, showing at Trafalgar Studios. "I found an old L of the show," he says, "and then the text in a second-hand bookshop - and I thought, 'Am I crazy, or why isn't somebody doing this in London?'"

Lan is now directing the revival of A Raisin in the Sun as part of the Young Vic's Walkabout season. It was staged at the theatre in 2001 but has not otherwise been seen in London for 20 years.

Lorraine Hansberry wrote the play - based on her own life and about the travails of a successful African-American family who want to move into an all-white area of Chicago - when she was 28. In 1959, Hansberry became the first black woman to have a play on Broadway, when Raisin opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre and went on to win the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for best play. Sidney Poitier played the role of Walter Lee Younger, and reprised the part for the film version of 1961. Hansberry's success meant a great deal to black America; Nina Simone's "To be Young, Gifted and Black" was inspired by Hansberry's play of that name, and Martin Luther King said she would be an inspiration to generations yet unborn.

"There is something about this play that demanded I do it," says Lan, who was born in Cape Town and moved to London in 1972. "There was no resisting it." Why does he feel a close bond to the story of a family stuck in a ghastly small apartment, whose aspirations to move into an all-white area are jeopardised when the son, Walter Lee, loses money investing in a liquor store? "I came from a Jewish family," he says. "My grandparents came from Lithuania to South Africa in the 1920s. We also lived in a tiny apartment. There are enormous connections between blacks and Jews in history."

Returning to his role as Walter Lee Younger is Lennie James, who was most recently seen in Fallout at the Royal Court. He leads a cast that includes the American actress Novella Nelson - who will, again, play his mother, Lena.

Lan is possessive about the play. "I always feel nervous about returning to a play," he says. "Will it be as fresh as the first time? But since my revival, I get upset when it's performed elsewhere - it was staged on Broadway in 2004. It is very much my play," he adds, only half joking.

'A Raisin in the Sun', Lyric Hammersmith, London W6 (020-7928 6363; www.youngvic.org) 18 Feb to 26 March; then touring

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory