by Strictly Arts
Review by: Nicole Sylvester
Published: Wednesday, 26th June 2019, 10:22p

At 16 years old, William Freeman was wrongly sentenced to five years of hard labour for stealing a horse. He was beaten so badly he suffered brain damage. Soon after his release, he was arrested for the murders of a family of four- however; his lawyer used a plea of insanity, the first of its kind in America.

This play is emotional and poignant throughout.

This was the story that inspired Camilla Whitehall to write Freeman, a powerful and physical play expressed through music, shadow puppetry, spoken word, and dance. Six true stories with a mental health theme at their core, intertwine time and space to tell the stories of William Freeman; Michael Bailey- who whilst on ‘suicide watch’, was found hanged in his cell in 2005; Daniel McNaughton – who was acquitted of murder; and by grounds of insanity, was forcibly institutionalized for the rest of his life in 1844. David Oluwale, a Nigerian fashion designer who was subjected to physical and racial abuse, and eventually harassed to death by police in the 1950’s; Sarah Reed, traumatised by the death of her baby, suffered horrendous police brutality and was found dead in her cell whilst on remand, and finally Sandra Bland, who was found hanging in her cell three days after arguing with a policeman over a traffic violation.

Peppered with poetry, grime and gospel, it is sharp stimuli to the senses

This play is emotional and poignant throughout.
Peppered with poetry, grime and gospel, it is sharp stimuli to the senses, performed superbly by an extremely talented little bunch. Sadly, it does much to highlight the unspoken link between mental health and systemic racism, shamelessly displaying the catastrophic failure of governments past and present to implement changes that these tragedies (and many many more) warranted. And right now? Today? Nothing has changed. Lest we forget: #Saytheirnames #BlackLivesMatter. Following its critically acclaimed, sold-out run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Freeman is now touring.

NEED TO KNOW: Freeman is on tour |  Find out more | Next stop: New Diorama Theatre, London, 28 June 2019, 7pm BOOK TICKETS