Star Wars Emperor actor to play Enoch Powell

Written by James Millar on 8 September 2017 in Culture

Actor Ian McDiarmid doesn't shy from controversial roles - he's swapping the most evil man in the universe for the race row MP

A new play focussed on the controversial MP Enoch Powell will star Star Wars actor Ian McDiarmid in the lead role.

McDiarmid, who played the evil emperor in the a number of films in the space series, will take to the stage as Powell later this month in a new production called What Shadows. The play, written by Chris Hannan is being staged by Birmingham Repertory Theatre at the Park theatre in London, and focuses on Powell's infamous 'Rivers of Blood' speech.

In the 1968 Powell, then Conservative defence spokesman, made a speech in Birmingham on immigration in which he warned of 'rivers of blood' if the number of new Brits arriving from the Commonwealth was not curbed. He lost his shadow cabinet job and became a political pariah as a result.

Hannan's play sees a young Caribbean immigrant looking at the speech and seeking an audience with the politician in his later years.

McDiarmid, who also starred in Spooks, Sleepy Hollow and last year's blockbuster The Lost City of Z, has pointed to the parallels between 1968 and now with concerns about immigration high on the political agenda.

He said: "I think we now have a divided Britain, almost down the middle - as it very much was when Powell made the speech. There are people who have reason to be grateful and happy about multiculturalism and there are other people who are feeling rather dispossessed."

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