‘To be free is very sweet.’ When one woman tells of her extraordinary journey to overcome the brutality of slavery, she becomes a beacon for the British anti-slavery movement. Born into slavery in the British colony of Bermuda, Mary Prince went on to become an autobiographer and champion of freedom. Her book had an electrifying effect on the abolitionist movement helping to free many Africans in bondage. Through theatre, song, music, drumming and dance, this masterpiece of Black British theatre is inspired by the storytelling traditions of the West African griot. Amantha Edmead discussed Fringe show, SOLD, in more depth below.
TF: SOLD certainly sounds interesting, what is the premise?
The premise of SOLD is sharing the real life story of Mary Prince, the first enslaved female African to publish her autobiography in Britain in 1831, using her words and an African storytelling form to do so. We fuse song, dance, storytelling, drumming, drama and ritual to create a piece that mixes traditional forms with contemporary. So we are bringing history to life and linking it to the experiences in Britain 2019 with an African Caribbean twist.
TF: And what drove the project, where did your influences lie?
Mary Prince’s story is one that I was introduced to while studying African studies more than 15 years ago, and was never a story I thought I’d tell! SOLD started as a response to me being asked to audition for a play that looked at the end of Slavery, but in my view from a European perspective. The play was about them in many ways but the story wasn’t theirs. My take was that in over 20 years of acting I’d only ever played 3 enslaved characters, and because of the sensitivity of the subject matter for me personally there had to be a good reason to bring up all of that pain of Slavery, and we had to hear the voices of my enslaved people. And so my journey with Mary’s story and SOLD began.
For over the 10 years I’ve been interested in working with African theatrical aesthetics, which looks at the fusion of traditional African performance styles, art having a social function and the audience being integral to the work. It was important for me that this story was told in an authentic way combining African tradition with the contemporary experience of the Caribbean diaspora.
TF: What are your plans for the Fringe, having been before are there any tips or musts you would offer to first-time performers?/
This is my third show at Edinburgh but the first time with a non-solo show and of doing a full run so I’m very excited. Our plan, like everyone, is to do the best show possible, get as many people in the industry and the general public to see it as we can, and to make connections to help us to book and tour the show next year. I’m also really interested in what people make of the show and the performance form, so I’m interested in what audiences feel about both. My tips to first time performers are to link and network with other first-timers or similar shows. You might be able to support each other with marketing and leafleting and doing it with others is easier than alone. Use Fringe Central and the workshops offered, you might find the help and support you need there. Have courage and just go for all the opportunities on offer.
TF: Have you been to the Fringe before, is there anything you are keen to see whilst in Edinburgh?
Yes, I’ve been to Edinburgh fringe twice before – in 2015 with The Backside Monologues, and last year with On Their Own Ground. Both of these plays looked at the African heritage, and both historical and contemporary female stories and experiences, and in sharing the Mary Prince story SOLD continues these themes. I have never done a full run, so this time round I’d love to spend time exploring Edinburgh, finding the sea as well as seeing other shows and networking.
TF: And what are your future plans beyond SOLD?
Our aim for SOLD after Edinburgh is to book a national tour for Spring/ Summer 2020, so we are hoping to get positive press reviews for the show, and programmers in who will love the play and book us!!!
You can see SOLD at Pleasance Courtyard until 25th August at 12:45. For tickets, go to https://tickets.edfringe.com/