The play, written by Murray Watts for Riding Lights Theatre Company, received its world premiere earlier this month at the Theatre Royal York, where it continues until 21 April 2007. Following its West End season, it will then tour to Cymru, Birmingham, London (Hackney Empire), Hull, Bristol and Brighton, where its schedule concludes on 23 June.
African Snow portrays the meeting of two men cast from opposite sides into the hell of the slave trade – Olaudah Equiano, stolen from his home in West Africa, and John Newton, the converted slave-trader who later gave the world its most famous hymn, “Amazing Grace”. Can victim and abuser ever be reconciled?
Timed to coincide with the abolition of the Slave Trade Act in the UK, promotional material for the play declares that slavery remains “unfinished business”, given that “in 1807, there were four million people in slavery worldwide” and “in 2007, there are over 20 million”.
African Snow is directed by Paul Burbridge and designed by Sean Kavanagh, with lighting by Ben Cracknell and music by Ben Okafor. The cast includes Israel Oyelumade, Roger Alborough, Mensah Bediako, Emmanuella Cole, Antonia Kemi Coker, Chris Jack, Rex Obano and Kenny Thompson.
The 400-seat Trafalgar Studio 1 has been dark since 24 March 2007, when Harry Burton’s revival of Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter, starring Lee Evans and Jason Isaacs, finished its limited sell-out season.
- by Terri Paddock