Freeman

Theatre is often defined as a means of offering a voice to those who cannot speak for themselves. With a powerful narrative and dynamic performance, Freeman by Strictly Arts Theatre does exactly that. The spotlight is turned on six real-life victims of race-related murder, who return from the dead to tell of injustices committed against them. In most cases, this extends beyond their deaths and into the trials following. By witnessing two centuries of disempowerment, audiences are forced to acknowledge the similarities between each case.

This is a production that urges social change.

Thanks to the number of narratives included, Freeman leaps between countries and time frames at an astonishing rate. This pace of performance is perhaps intended to further highlight the stagnation of the criminal justice system, a stagnation that Freeman warns is having life-threatening consequences. Changes in scene are choicely balanced between sudden jumps in the action and smooth transitions. With an exciting variety of performance styles, from dance to gospel song, an audience can never predict what is going to happen next. Through its broad range, this performance manages to include both artistic imagery and educational discussion, painting a deep and multifaceted picture of racism and its prevalence across history.

The physical theatre of this production is extremely impressive and a powerful opening sequence depicting the enslavement of black people captures the immense suffering. All performers move fluidly with deep and intense expression throughout this choreography. Their challenging stares into the auditorium call us to action, whilst they also show excellent comic timing in moments of light relief. As a group, they are a powerful ensemble.

To interweave six narratives through such a range of techniques shows outstanding artistic courage. Considering recent discussions surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement, it seems that Freeman couldn’t be more relevant to 2018. This is a production that urges social change.

Reviews by Carla van der Sluijs

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Performances

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The Blurb

Inspired by the first man in America to plead insanity as his defence, award-winning writer Camilla Whitehill and Strictly Arts examine the unspoken link between mental health and systemic racism. Throughout time and across waters, from William Freeman to Sarah Reed, six true stories are threaded together and told through physical theatre, spoken word, gospel singing, shadow puppetry and more. History is bound to repeat itself when the thumb is permanently bearing down on the loop button, so has anything really changed? 'The play capitalises on the company's impressive versatility and a searing rage against injustice' (WhatsOnLive.co.uk).

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