Muscovado - review

Published: Monday, October 6, 2014 12:46 PM | Review by: Ronke Lawal | Afridiziak Star Rating:
Muscovado by BurntOut Theatre Muscovado by BurntOut Theatre

Each character represents the hunger for something more, for freedom in its purest sense and Ibini has done an excellent job in exploring that hunger with this body of work.


Muscovado is the unrefined form that sugar takes during the process before which it becomes the pure ingredient that is much loved around the world. It is strong, coarse and completely unfiltered much like the play, which takes its name.


A play by Matilda Ibini, Muscovado brings us the interconnected stories of the inhabitants of a sugarcane plantation in Barbados. We meet the plantation owner's wife Miss Kitty (Charlotte Farmar) and her young house slave Willa (Alicia McKenzie) in the opening sequence. Willa keen to become a lady asks Missy Kitty a multitude of questions, which reflects her mindset as a 12-year-old slave girl. Initially it is easy to laugh at Willa's youthful exuberance and naivety yet as the play progresses we come to see that Willa represents that hope that all the characters represent during the struggles of the slave era. From Miss Kitty's stepdaughter, Margaret's (‪Zelina Rebeiro) unusual affinity to the slaves to Nanny G's (Amey St Cyr) hope of freedom as old age takes its toll. Each character represents the hunger for something more, for freedom in its purest sense and Ibini has done an excellent job in exploring that hunger with this body of work.

The Holy Trinity Church in Clapham Common is not an ordinary church it is the church where William Wilberforce began his campaign for the abolition of slavery.


The love story between house slave (Asa - Alexander Kiffin) and a field slave (Elsie - DK Fashola), juxtaposed with the affair of between a field slave (Olive - Shanice Grant) and a plantation manager reflects that continual search for something more outside ourselves. To suggest that emotional love somehow wins over raw sensuality and materialism is the typical romantic nuance that we have all grown up with and yet by the end of the play one questions whether those ideals of love are always justified.


The acting was strong from all on stage however James G Nunn gave a particularly outstanding performance as Parson Lucy. His portrayal of a character who embodied the hatred and prejudices that justified the transatlantic slave trade for centuries, and in some ways discrimination in our modern age was a triumph. One might say he played the perfect "baddie".


A church is an unusual place for a play to be performed, not least a play about slavery. But The Holy Trinity Church in Clapham Common is not an ordinary church it is the church where William Wilberforce began his campaign for the abolition of slavery.

A live choir brings every aspect of this play to life with the mood captured with a grace and intensity that created a compelling atmosphere for the storylines which unfolded.


This cast of eight actors had a small space to work with but they worked exceptionally well with it. The musical score created by James Reynolds and performed by a live choir brings every aspect of this play to life with the mood captured with a grace and intensity that created a compelling atmosphere for the storylines which unfolded. The music served to coalesce all that was happening before the audience perfectly. BurntOut Theatre has presented a strong and moving production with Muscovado. It is a long and passionate piece of work that really ought to be seen not just because it's Black History Month but because the lessons of slavery are still being learnt today. It is a necessary and daring insight into history that though should never be forgotten and should never be repeated.


Info: Muscovado by BurntOut Theatre is at Holly Trinity Church, Clapham Common until October 10, 2014 | Book tickets




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