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Sancho – An Act of Remembrance – 5 Stars

Sancho

Sancho – An Act of Remembrance

Wilton’s Music Hall

Reviewed – 6th June 2018

★★★★★

“Joseph’s performance is impeccable, passionate and entrancing.”

 

When Paterson Joseph wrote ‘Sancho: An Act of Remembrance’, which was first performed in 2015, he could never have imagined the relevance it would have amidst the clamour of the Windrush scandal. Inspired by a portrait by Gainsborough and, as Joseph pointedly explains with a twinkle in his eye, an unattainable wish to be in a costume drama, we are lead through the surprising life and fate of Charles Ignatius Sancho. He was born in 1729 on a slave ship bound for the West Indies, brought to London at an early age by his master and subsequently taken in by the Duke of Montagu who employed him as a butler and, more importantly, educated him. Although Sancho was a significant anti-slavery campaigner and was to become the first Afro-Briton to vote in a British general election, his story is one of an aspiring actor, musician and composer, whose ultimate destiny lay in a grocer’s shop in Westminster. Joseph’s script brings a simple narrative alive with the colourful characters who shape Sancho’s life and the everyday events complicated by his origins.

Joseph’s performance is impeccable, passionate and entrancing. His command of the stage and the audience is remarkable. We are captivated by his own charisma and, with humour, drama and eloquence, he steers us through Sancho’s distinctive history, portraying the personalities around him with expressive accents and deftly-handled props. Together with co-director, Simon Godwin, they produce a show which is artfully paced and nuanced; from light-hearted moments involving the audience to the moving speech by Oroonoko, Prince of Angola, we move from one sensation to another. In addition, the frighteningly familiar current situation reflected in Act II builds to a powerful ending.

Inside the shabby-chic setting of Wilton’s Music Hall, the wood of Michael Vale’s set evokes the interior of a ship which stands as a reminder of Sancho’s journey as well as adapting to the many varied scenes. The costumes (Linda Haysman) and props adeptly complete the sense of transition as they are refashioned through the action of the play. The lighting design by Lucrecia Briceno enriches the diverse moods and the interjections of music (Ben Park) mark Sancho’s cultural aspect.

There are occasions when the chemistry between artists and audience transcend a wonderful performance and it becomes a unique experience, hard to put into words. Last night the craftsmanship in the writing and acting, the creative design and strong, pertinent message, were heightened by a receptiveness and a music hall setting which buzzed with excited energy – the enjoyment of a tremendous piece of theatre and awareness of this very British struggle which continues today.

 

Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

Photography by Robert Day

 


Sancho – An Act of Remembrance

Wilton’s Music Hall until 16th June

 

 

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