Written by Simon Schama, adapted by Caryl Phillips
This is a superbly staged adaptation of the book Rough Crossings by Simon
Schama, relates the story of the black slaves who fought on the side of
the British army during the American War of Independence.
After often performing heroics on behalf of the Brits, with many losing
their lives, the freed slaves were then betrayed by them. Exiled to the
inhospitable climes of Nova Scotia, they aligned themselves with the white
abolitionists to establish what they were promised would be a new life
free from tyranny in Sierra Leone.
The central part of the play is the conflict between a liberal white patriarch
John Clarkson (Ed Hughes) and black militant separatist leader Thomas
Peters (Patrick Robinson) who had no trust at all in the dealings of white
The stage setting is engrossing at times. The stage goes up and down
on occasions similar to the rolling deck of a ship or to indicate that
characters below deck are enduring bad times on a voyage. The backdrop
is a large screen positioned at an odd angle, on which shots of tidal
waves of the sea are projected onto it.
But perhaps most impressive of all - and some have considered it too decorous
for such a subject matter - is the live music which goes from the extreme
of Handel arias to gospel singing.
My only misgiving of the production was that it went on a wee bit too
long - it could have been cut by at least twenty minutes without any real
loss of dramatic impact. At times there is an overload of infomation supplied
to the audience, without providing any greater insight into the appalling
treatment of black people at that time.
Comment left by Ed Barrett on 21st November, 2007 at 16:28
The only disappointing thing for me about this play was the size of the audience. A great play, a relevant topic, with a brilliant cast, but the Playhouse was only half full. I guess the recent run of King Cotton at the Empire may have soaked up all of the audience for a play about slavery; if so, it was a shame.