An introduction to the story of Olaudah Equiano, the 18th Century Nigerian slave, has been brought back onto the stage for this Autumn season.
First run as a pilot in 2007, “Albert & Equiano” captures Equiano’s life as an Igbo boy who is captured and taken along the Middle Passage, to work on plantations in the West Indies. He is later bought by a British naval officer as a toy boy for his mistress, serves in the Navy, before being sold again and finally gaining his freedom, upon which he decides to come to London.
In this one man play written by Jayne Newton Chance, Equiano’s incredible story is uniquely told through the eyes of a disheartened museum caretaker named Albert in England’s south west. When Albert, portrayed by David Oddie finds a portrait of Equiano, the spirit of the Nigerian takes over him.
“I’ve been fascinated by the figure of Equiano for several years. For me he’s almost like a Gandhian figure, who I think is an inspiration to all of us,” says David. Aside from being the only cast member the play has brought up another more obvious challenge for David.
“The challenge was how can I portray him, without people saying ‘who do you think you are?,’ in respect that he was a black man and I’m a white man. You know, ‘what right have you got to tell his story?’”
The play has toured around the world from Africa to Palestine to Greece. “I did a pilot run of it a couple of years back and took it to Freetown in Sierra Leone, and I thought gosh as a white man going to Freetown I could get eaten alive. They said ‘you’re an actor, you’re a storyteller, that’s what you do, you tell stories and we were really excited and moved by this story.’”
ALBERT & EQUIANO
From 21st to 22nd September 2011
At The Brewhouse Theatre & Arts Centre, Coal Orchard, Taunton, Somerset, TA1 1JL.
Tickets: £8 (discounts available for groups of ten or more)
Tel: 01823 283 244 or purchase online from: www.thebrewhouse.net
By Chinwe Ojielo