Vault Festival, London
What Is It? A biographical two-hander created by Kuumba Nia Arts and Unlock the Chains Collective, directed by Euton Daley and performed by Amantha Edmead and Angie Amra Anderson.
What Is It About? Through live performance and music, inspired by the storytelling traditions of West African Griot, SOLD brings to life the true story of Mary Prince, a black woman born into enslavement in the late 18th century. Based on Prince’s own accounts from her 1831 book The History of Mary Prince, the pain and atrocities of the slave trade are laid bare and Britain’s complicity in the systematic abuse of people of colour is brought to light.
How Did It Make Me Feel? There are pieces of theatre that come about that need to be seen, that have a frightening relevance and a timeless power that will leave you both incredibly moved but also reflective of the world we find ourselves in. SOLD is one of those pieces.
Many of us may be familiar with narratives concerning historical slavery, with films such as 12 Years A Slave and Harriet making strides in the awards circuit, but as the makers of SOLD themselves point out, our association with slavery is often with the civil rights and abolition movements that took place in the United States. Britain’s role in the slave trade is something our country often chooses to forget, and at best it is only mentioned as a point of fact that Britain abolished the practice before the United States.
The fact that much of our country’s affluence and power was built upon the enslavement of African peoples is quietly and insidiously forgotten in our collective consciousness, but SOLD reminds us of this dark aspect of our country’s past to highlight slavery’s reverberations into the present with regards to our contemporary racial politics.
This is an extremely powerful piece of theatre, with fantastic direction from Daley and a tour de force performance from Edmead. In Edmead, and entire cast of characters are evoked and given life – this is perhaps the most skilled piece of multi-roling I have ever seen, with Edmead clearly distinguishing the plethora of characters she plays through focused changes in voice and physicality. The relationship between the internal rhythms of her characters and Angie Amra Anderson’s drumming creates the beautiful, frightening and painful heart beat of this show.
There is an extremely visceral quality to this show, and Anderson’s powerful, still, matriarchal presence throughout gives SOLD an essence similar to ancient plays like Euripedes’ Trojan Women or Sophocles’ Antigone. This is undoubtedly a must-see piece of theatre, both hauntingly relevant in its narrative and beautifully executed in its performance.
Anything Else? If you get the chance to see this show, join in with the conversation Kuumba Nia Arts and Unlock the Chains Collective have started online and in person. This is a show that demands being discussed. Alexandra x SOLD is playing at the Studio, The Vaults until 2nd February 2020. If you like our reviews and want to support this blog feel free to buy any of us a virtual coffee here!