Forgotten story staged to give one woman’s first-hand account of slavery at the height of the slave trade.
Edinburgh 2019 Fringe Winners (Best Ensemble Musical Theatre Awards) Oxford based companies Kuumba Nia Arts & Unlock the Chains Collective presents SOLD – a historic piece of theatre that dramatises the first account of female enslavement in the British West Indies as part of The VAULT Festival 2020.
We think of slavery as an American experience, often hearing stories of the deep south, and forget that Britain played a major role. SOLD uses the words and experiences of Mary Prince who was born into slavery in the British West Indies and worked tirelessly there before being taken in her last years to the UK. Her story, originally published by the anti-slavery movement of the 1800s, was popular in its day, contributing enormously to the ending of slavery, but has long been forgotten and is rarely referenced or known.
Amantha Edmead, who wrote the show and plays Mary says:“Mary’s story is one of the unassuming heroine. Her strength and resilience to stay alive through the horrors of British chattel slavery, to fall in love, work for her freedom and share her story to help bring slavery to an end, was a huge achievement for an enslaved West Indian woman in 1831. I feel humbled to tell her story.”
Mary’s narrative describes some of the harsh realities of enslavement, from her childhood days as a passive survivor, and later when trying to gain her freedom and change the system that kept her enslaved.
Amantha was inspired to create the piece after being encouraged to audition for a part in a production about slavery where none of the enslaved characters spoke about their experiences – the action and voices coming from the European characters and their perspectives. She was compelled to show the historic truth using the real and published words of Mary Prince, an actual victim of the British Slave Trade.
The production is given greater cultural weight through the use of West African traditions including griot, an important role in the African community, similar to the European bard. The griot is an historian, storyteller, singer, poet and musician. In SOLD, Amantha tells Mary’s story through a fusion of storytelling, song and dance/movement alongside the drummer and performer Angie Amra Anderson.
SOLD was first performed as a one-woman work-in-progress at the Offbeat Festival in 2018 to much acclaim. Funding from Arts Council England enabled the development of the show where it had a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with 4 & 5 star reviews alongside a wealth of positive audience comments. It is co-produced by Kuumba Nia Arts and Unlock the Chains Collective.