Claudia Rankine’s gripping debate-play The White Card comes to Leeds Playhouse – urging allies to be in the conversation

16th May 2022

Production images have been released for the European premiere of Claudia Rankine‘s first published play, The White Card. This is a co-production between Leeds PlayhouseNorthern StageBirmingham Repertory Theatre & Soho Theatre, in association with HOME Manchester. Directed by Northern Stage’s Artistic Director, Natalie Ibu, it opens here in Leeds from 24 May – 4 June.

The critically acclaimed production invites us to a heated debate uncovering some uncomfortable truths that can’t be ignored about white privilege, cultural appropriation and representation. Be an ally, be in the room, be in the conversation. Written during an increasingly racially divided America and before the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests rippled across the globe, a wealthy, privileged white couple invite a talented Black artist to dinner. Tensions run high and a heated debate uncovers some uncomfortable truths that can’t be ignored about white privilege, cultural appropriation, and representation.

Northern Stage Artistic Director Natalie Ibu said,

“The White Card is a courageous and clever debate-play about the privilege of whiteness and the consuming of black trauma as art. Claudia Rankine is an amazing thinker and writer and, as a Black woman, she has given me a language for my own experiences. Although set in America, the play is just as relevant in the UK – a country where a young Black girl can be strip searched at school or a Black man can be stopped and searched simply for wearing a coat on a sunny day – I think there’s never been a more urgent need for this play and the discussions it will force about race in the UK.”

Claudia Rankine is the multi-award-winning author of six collections of poetry, including the international bestseller Citizen: An American LyricThe White Card premiered in Boston in 2018 and was published by Graywolf Press in 2019.

Claudia explains why it remains so relevant,

“For me, The White Card is an invitation to have the difficult and necessary conversations about the discomfort we usually negotiate silently when it comes to race relations. The goal is not to get rid of the discomfort, but to increase the possibility for intimacy inside new narrative frameworks. The White Card stages the discussions that we have privately about the roles of art, race, suffering, discrimination, and patronage—out loud and beyond what is comfortable to say and hear. It understands that true conversations about race and racism can feel like a crisis to those committed to silence and disavowal.”

In a move to remove barriers when it comes to balancing careers and family life, the lead role of Charlotte will be played by Estella Daniels for the first half of the run, before handing over to Christine GomesNatalie Ibu explains,

“Recent research by Parents and Carers in Performing Arts showed that one in four women are doing 90% or more of the childcare and struggling to work or seek work, and 72% are considering abandoning their career in the performing arts. If you overlay that with Kimberlé Crenshaw’s work on intersectionality, I bet those stats are even worse for Black female pregnant actors. As a sector we must act now to support working mums or mums-to-be or continue to lose incredible talent from our stages, as well as setting our equality goals back decades.”

Estella and Christine are joined by Matthew Pidgeon as Charles; Kate Copeland as Virginia; Nick Blakeley as Eric and CJ Coleman in his professional debut as Alex.

The creative team includes Set and Costume Designer Debbie Duru, Sound Designer Roma Yagnik, Lighting Designer Rajiv Pattani, Movement Director Rachael Nanyonjo, Production Dramatherapist Wabriya King, Dialect Coach Eleanor Manners, Fight Director Rachid Sabitri and Assistant Director Wambui Hardcastle.


In an addition to the original production, a local ensemble of Black women at each venue will work with movement director Rachael Nanyonjo on the transition between scenes, transforming not just the physical space but shifting the perspective and power.


The White Card

Courtyard Theatre, Leeds Playhouse

24 May – 4 June 2022, Press Night Thu 26 May 2022

Box office: 0113 213 7700. Book online