William Freeman was the first man in the United States of America to plead insanity as a defence. Sandra Bland was found dead in her cell three days after being arrested for a seemingly innocuous traffic violation. David Oluwale was found drowned following systematic harassment and brutality by the police force supposed to be protecting him. And these are just three of the six stories explored in the Strictly Arts Theatre Company’s production of Freeman, written by award-winning playwright, Camilla Whitehill, and seeking to show why movements like Black Lives Matter still really do matter, centuries on from cases like William Freeman’s.
The play is a theatre production in its fullest sense using physical theatre, music, dance, singing, incredibly clever shadow puppetry and big screen projections, all of the highest quality, to tell each of the character’s stories and show why each narrative is important in impacting the others.
The audience is gripped and shocked in equal measure. Everyone knows of the appalling racism and discrimination of the past but in a sense the most compelling of the six stories are those set in more recent times which we can relate to, remember seeing in the news and which leave a striking impression that things have not changed as much as many would like to think.
During the story of Sandra Bland, names, an innumerable amount of names, flash up on the screen behind the actress exemplifying how often black lives are lost needlessly and how these statistics gave rise to the aforementioned Black Lives Matter movement which highlights amongst their aims as “working for a world where Black lives are no longer systematically targeted.”
This is the most powerful of plays and will challenge all who go to see it. It is a production of sheer class and talent and the cast: Kieren Amos, Pip Barclay, Corey Campbell, Kimisha Lewis, Aimee Powell and Marcel White are fully deserving of the standing ovation which comes immediately the lights go down on this quite sensational production.