‘When the rebels came, they killed three of her children and she took her remaining child and went on the run for eight months, before she found a camp where there was water and sanitation.’ He also visited Lumumba’s house, where his family still live and which has been preserved in much the same state as it was in the 1960s.
‘I was in the study where he formed his government.
He is one of the greatest actors of his generation.’ Césaire, both poet and political activist himself, saw Lumumba as a martyr to democracy, destroyed by the machinations of the West and Lumumba’s own erstwhile friend, the future dictator Mobutu.
But, Ejiofor says, the people he met on his trip to Congo feel more ambivalent about their short-lived leader. This other guy comes along who is an individualist capitalist thinker and he rules the country for 30 years.
‘She is pleased we’re doing the play – all his family were.
That Othello, which he performed at the Donmar Warehouse in 2007, put Ejiofor, now 35, in the front rank of British actors.
He had already impressed with a series of stage and screen roles but his Othello astonished audiences and critics alike.
Chiwetel Ejiofor has played detectives, gangsters, a drag queen and an Othello that captivated the theatre world.
But when I meet him in the flesh it is Louis Lester – the jazz musician he played in the recent BBC series Dancing on the Edge – whom he most closely resembles.
Character and actor share both a measured charm, and an inscrutability.