Creators: Amanda Wilkin and Rachael Nanyonjo
Writer: Amanda Wilkin
Director: Rachael Nanyonjo
While ultimately there’s a strong, hopeful message imparted by Recognition’s story, it’s touch and go for most of it to see whether a crushing hopelessness wins out instead. It’s a richly educational, intricate and thoughtful piece of radio with the title referring to the closely drawn relationship between the experiences of Black British artists at the turn of the 20th Century and today.
The pioneering composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (born 1875) was the creator of widely popular orchestral works which incorporated the work of other Black poets and writers, as well as traditional African music into contemporary music. His story is told through the research and musings of Song, a young musician in today’s London who’s finding her own composing a challenge. Looking to Coleridge-Taylor for inspiration, she uncovers a history of a creative, strong man who struggled through his life to find his rightful recognition, acceptance and compensation. Likewise, she still sees challenges and unfairness with representation and recognition of her work and identity in her music school.
These experiences are separated by 120 long years. Collectively and independently they’re strong illustrations of a struggle that shouldn’t be, but was, is and will continue to be. Amanda Wilkin’s script renders each person’s story informative and enlightening, told simply for maximum comprehension and only lightly dramatised to hold an edge. Under Rachael Nanyonjo’s direction Obioma Ugoala as Samual and Shiloh Coke as Song are smooth and compelling storytellers, bringing out nuance that connects an audience to an important narrative. For some, the ideas here will be revelatory, for others they’ll be all too familiar. For either audience, hopefully they’ll be a valuable perspective.
Recognition is part of 45North and Ellie Keel’s Production’s Written on the Waves series, a collection of audio performances created to help people “connect with each other while we are apart”. These stories, eight of which are available on their website, are a gorgeous, varied and colourful collection. Targeting emotions by vivid storytelling, exemplified by Recognition, these are stories that challenge and encourage response. While the project was created in response to a lockdown, long may this sort of work continue.