The performance started late due to technical difficulties. Everyone grumbled into the stifling room, impatient for the show to begin. But as soon as it did we were transfixed. So much so, we didn’t even mind the heat.
A deep breath and we were in. We were told six true, heart-wrenching stories concerning six victims who were robbed of dignity, of choice, and of belief. From William Freeman (played by Corey Campbell), the first man to plead insanity as his defence in 1846, to Sarah Reed (played by Aimee Powell), a broken and abused young women who committed suicide in prison in 2016. It proves the point that history has been repeating itself over and over; that nothing has changed within racial and mental health prejudice. This play was speaking up for people whom the system had failed and who could not be here to speak for themselves.
A particularly gripping moment was the story of Sandra Bland (played by Kimisha Lewis). Plunging our heads into the modern era with Facebook and hashtags, we see Bland pulled over by a policeman. They electro-shocked the audience with a loud stun-gun of names. Mounting the fear and deep anger of the situation. Names upon names of the black unarmed victims killed at traffic stops.
The physical theatre embodied the moment spectacularly. The sheer desperation, the pain and the violence without gore. There was no need for props and set in this show. Simple projections, shadow puppetry, songs and physical movement pieces was all they needed. It was so simple but so effective and wonderfully executed. The strong bodies of the ensemble were effortlessly changing throughout the piece. At one point even mimicking a horse, which made the audience gasp in admiration. That section only lasted mere seconds. As that was the style of the piece, fast-paced, slick and to perfection.
It is important to point out, despite the heavy subject matter there were still spattering’s of light humour to break up the tension.
I usually pin-point the standout performances but every member of this ensemble were phenomenal. They shape-shifted in between accents, characters and time periods with ease. Even a fairly respectable Scottish accent. Dripping with sweat they all gave their heart and soul to the performance. Not just for the show, but as tribute to the real people they were embodying.
The audience gave a standing ovation, with many wiping tears from their eyes. We clapped for a full five minutes. The room was moved, including myself. I put down my pen and openly wept. This play will not leave your subconscious for days. And that is their aim. Handing us leaflets concerning mental health and urging us to have those difficult conversations.
They left us with one request, remember their names.
Freeman runs until the 27th of August – https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/freeman