Amy Scott previews a Riding Lights collaboration with the York Theatre Royal.
York Theatre Royal and local Riding Lights Theatre Company are collaborating for the first time this spring with a new play, African Snow, written by Ben Okafor. The play tells the true story of an 18th-century Nigerian, Olaudah Equiano, who, after being sold into slavery, managed to buy his own freedom and travel the world and that of slave trader John Newton, later known for writing the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’.
The production stars Israel Oyelumade as Equiano and features original music from writer Ben Okafor. The production is timed to coincide with the 220th anniversary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act and hopes to add its voice to the worldwide call for the abolition of modern slavery. The play was commissioned by the Church Mission Society, founded in 1799 by representatives of the abolitionist movement including prominent campaigner William Wilberforce.
Dr. John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, believes the project to be important: “Here’s a play that turns history into a pulsating human story. It could be yours. It could be mine. We begin to understand the past when we recognise that it is about real human beings like us. That way we better understand not only where we have come from but what we are doing now and where we are heading.”
African Snow will run from Friday March 30 until April 2 at the Theatre Royal, followed by a national tour.