Mary Prince lived an extraordinary life. Born into enslavement in Bermuda in 1788, her life was filled with struggle and pain, but she refused to let it define who she was. Her book ‘The History of Mary Prince’ published in 1831 offers a first-hand account of the brutalities of the slavery regime in the British Caribbean colonies of the time, and forms the source material for Kuumba Nia Arts’ show ‘Sold’. Through theatre, song, music, drumming and dance, we witness Mary’s momentous journey, from childhood to her late 40s, which had an electrifying effect on the abolitionist movement.
Directed by Euton Daley and written (and performed) by Amantha Edmead, the show intends to offer a chronological retelling of Mary’s life, tracing her experiences as a young woman of colour trying to come to terms with the social hierarchy she was born into whilst trying to stay clear of vastly temperamental ‘masters’ whose violent, aggressive reactions shaped much of her memories of her early years. As she grows older, we see Mary’s disposition change from one that questions the status quo in vain to one that actively yearns for her freedom. Her autobiography creates the narrative structure of the dramatization, with Mary agreeing to tell her story to a scribe who begins to document it, one experience at a time. This first-person perspective in the dramaturgy of the work brings forth a hauntingly gripping presentation that stays with you long after the curtain goes down.
Edmead embodies Mary Prince completely and truly, slipping in and out of different parts of her life with stellar vocal delivery and specific movement quality. She even plays the different characters of her life, from cruel masters and unassuming slave traders to brief acquaintances and helpless well-wishers, with delightfully crafted performances. She is accompanied by Angie Amra Anderson on drums, whose live score imbues the storytelling with pace and rhythm that not only set our feet tapping, but also, remind us of the sheer intensity of what Mary endured. Ayo-Dele Edwards’ song arrangements beautifully wring out the complex gamut of emotions that Mary carries within her, having to be a carer to her ‘owners’ whilst not being allowed to truly care for her own self and for her own freedom. Lati Saka’s choreography helps these shifting tableaux of scenes, music and song to be carried through with swift movements, also complemented by Daley’s masterful compositional choices that make the entire presentation truly vibrant, dynamic and unforgettable.
To summarize, Sold is a deeply moving representation of one woman’s extraordinary struggle to overthrow a world order she was born into. Whilst some might say this is a play that traces these struggles across time, perhaps we’d be better suited to think of it as tracing these struggles across memory, for its Mary’s memories and her words remembering those moments that reflect the hope she carried within in the darkest of times.
You can watch Sold at the Park Theatre N4 3JP till 4th November 2021. Learn more and book your tickets at https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/sold
Reviewer: Gaurav Singh Nijjer
Reviewed: 20th October 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★