Writer: Amantha Edmead
Music: Angie Amra Anderson
Director: Euton Daley
Sold is a compelling piece of theatre written and performed by Amantha Edmead who plays the part of Mary Prince, an enslaved woman of African descent. Edmead gives an energetic and intelligent performance, freewheeling across the stage or struggling entangled in ropes which signify the many ways in which she is trapped and tortured. She effortlessly switches into the other parts, becoming at one moment both another young woman, Hetty, and her crying child. She embodies the suffering of a life of brutal enslavement but also the irrepressible joy of finding freedom. Angie Amra Anderson’s drumming and singing create a mesmerizing sound world that transports us directly to the emotional heart of the play.
In a fluid swirl of scenes, we see Prince bought and sold by a succession of cruel owners. Edmead powerfully conveys the bleakness of her years in the Turks and Caicos, forced to labour long hours up to her knees in the corroding waters of salt ponds, work that will leave her incapacitated by rheumatism. In Antigua, having met and married a former slave, she is not allowed to bring him with her to England when sent there by her current master. In London her life changes when she meets the abolitionist Thomas Pringle who encourages her to dictate her autobiography: The History of Mary Prince (1831). It may not be as familiar a slave narrative as those of Olaudah Equinano or Frederick Douglass, for example, but its vivid tale deserves to be heard.
However familiar the outlines of such slave narratives may be, the personal accounts of human cruelty continue to shock. But what makes Sold exceptional is Edmead’s physical performance. Through mime and movement, rhythms and song, she conveys such horrific scenes as the process of being crudely poked and prodded by male slave owners, assessing her as they would livestock. Shocking too is her treatment by the families in which she is forced to live. In one scene we hear the voice of a slave owner’s 10-year-old daughter, gleeful repeating to the young Mary “You’re my slave now!”. The scene efficiently conveys so much about how slave-owning continued to be normalised in the nineteenth century, even in supposedly respectable families.
It is an intimate, involving experience and by the end the audience spontaneously joins in the singing of a familiar hymn. Sold is flawlessly directed by Euton Daley who creates an atmosphere that grips from the start.
Runs until 6 November 2021