Sold at Park Theatre
Staged as part of the Say It, Women program, Kuumba Nia Arts present Sold, the first live performance about the life of Black abolitionist and author, Mary Prince.
The production is accompanied only by a drum, and written by Amantha Edmead, who also plays the central figure. Mary is reading, but, interrupted by music, she begins to dance. Edmead is instantly captivating, with her energetic movement and beautiful singing. As the character recounts her journey from being born into slavery in Bermuda in 1788 to her travels to Britain, the actor expertly transforms from young girl to present-day woman. She portrays a variety of characters, including the slavers and their families; in one memorable scene, she performs the role of a shrieking baby, very realistically expressed.
Mary was a key figure in ending slavery and was the first Black woman to have her account written down in her book, The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave, published in 1831. Edmead does an outstanding job in portraying the abolitionist, her performance never bordering on the hyperbolic, but rather moving and stirring the audience. As Angie Amra Anderson provides the drumming, the portrayal on-stage becomes ever more intense and emotive, as the performer effortlessly goes from dancing and singing, to describing the terrible circumstances of Mary’s life, all with exceptional focus and pathos. Director Euton Daley’s vision successfully sees Edmead traverse the stage, while choreographer Lati Saka’s moves complement the whole of Mary’s journey.
When the audience is reminded of the evil nature of slave owners, witnessing actions including flogging, whipping and other forms of unspeakable torture, Edmead’s expressions are unforgettable; in keeping direct eye contact with the audience, she truly becomes Mary, which only the greatest actors can achieve.
The protagonist does have some happiness in her life: she meets and marries the former slave, Daniel James, in Antigua, but her new owners are completely against this union and her emancipation. After her visit to England in 1828, she begins to record her life. However, not much is known after this time, and she disappears without a trace.
Edmead is a revelation and Sold is a must-see production worthy of more than five stars. As the actor and Anderson sing hymns, inviting the audience to join in, the piece ends with the question: “Is our past not linked to our present?”. This is a seminal piece of theatre and as perfect a performance as anyone could see.
Sold is at Park Theatre from 18th October until 6th November 2021. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.