Writer: Paterson Joseph
Directors: Paterson Joseph and Simon Godwin
Reviewer: James Garrington
One day in 1774, a man turned up to vote in Westminster and made history.
His name was Charles Ignatius Sancho, and he was the first Black man known to have cast his vote in a British election. Sancho: An Act of Remembrance tells his story. From his birth on a slave ship to an unknown mother somewhere on the Atlantic; through his formative years as a curiosity and house-pet; to his friendship with the rich and powerful; this is a fascinating tale.
The play is conceived, written and performed by Paterson Joseph. As he self-deprecatingly puts it himself during his brief introduction: ‘Everything you see tonight is my fault’. Laying fault, however, is the last thing on anyone’s mind as Joseph embarks on his story, setting out to counter any thoughts that the history of Black Britain began with the Windrush in 1948. He reminds us that there was an African legion stationed at Hadrian’s Wall in Roman times, and tells us of complaints made by Elizabeth I that there were too many Black people in her realm, before he moves on to his main topic – the life of Sancho.
Joseph is a superb story-teller and is clearly fascinated by his subject. Over the course of 75 minutes, he brings Sancho to life in a revealing, poignant and funny one-man show, as Joseph transforms himself into his character to tell us his story. The play comprises a series of vignettes, with Sancho looking back over his life. From a seven-year-old slave boy to a shop-keeper shortly before his death, Joseph portrays Sancho at that age convincingly – plus he plays all of the other people Sancho comes into contact with too. In Joseph’s hands, Sancho is a charming, educated man, who moved in many different levels of society. By the end of the evening, it feels as though we have got to know him quite well, and he was a man it would have been a pleasure to know.
This is Joseph’s first work as a playwright, and it is well-written and performed with humour and pathos.
DesignerMichael Vale has created a sparse but very effective set, which allows Joseph to lead the audience though the different times and locations with ease.
Sancho was a fascinating man, and his tale is told beautifully by Joseph in a thought-provoking and engrossing piece of educational theatre.
Runs until 25 September 2015