With a collapsed Edmund Kean unable to continue as Othello – and despite concurrent protests against the Abolition of Slavery Act – Aldridge was drafted in to play the title role.

His Desdemona (Charlotte Lucas’s open-minded Ellen Tree, engaged to Kean’s outraged son) welcomes the opportunity to learn from Aldridge’s less restrained, more passionate style, but resentment and prejudice are rife elsewhere – especially among the critics whose racist reviews ensured that, despite success in Europe, he never played in London again.

Told in flashback, Indhu Rubasingham’s inaugural production as artistic director moves smoothly from Poland in 1867 (where an older, ailing Aldridge prepares for Lear) to that fatefully impassioned young man’s interpretation in Covent Garden, before returning to the dressing room in Lodz and an unforgettable transformation.

There’s an occasional awkwardness to the writing, but Lester’s layered performance is mesmerising throughout and his confrontation with theatre manager Pierre Laporte (Eugene O’Hare) is played (by both) with a blazing intensity which is almost worth the price of admission alone.

Tricycle, Kilburn High Road, NW6 7JR
Tube | Kilburn
Until 24th November
£14.00 – £22.00

Image: Tristram Kenton