Olaudah Equiano: The Enslaved African (3 stars)

This article is from 2014

Olaudah Equiano: The Enslaved African

Direct, powerful and brutal depiction of slavery, staged at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

With the strident Oscar-winning 12 Years A Slave to clear the way, writer/director Adam Tulloch unearths another true story of repression and subjugation with Equianio (Jonathan Luwagga), who is kidnapped at the age of 11 and sold into slavery alongside his sister. A key point is that his captor is African; whereas Steve McQueen’s film showcased hammy cameos from white stars, this three-hander from the Total Insight Theatre Company keeps the circle smaller, and reduces the equation to master and slaves.

With a bare stage and little in the way of lighting or costumes, the three performers act out a series of brutal vignettes, depicting capture, dominance, rebellion. The overall result is effective in capturing the injustice of one man’s story, and the acting is direct and powerful. But as with McQueen’s film, the problem remains how to create entertainment from stark pain and suffering.

Tulloch doesn’t fully succeed is mapping out Equanio’s journey, and the ending feel rushed and in need of explanation, but what he does create is a potent reminder of what real suffering is.

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Olaudah Equiano, The Enslaved African

  • 3 stars
  • Directed by: Adam Tulloch
  • Written by: Olaudah Equiano

Adaptation of the 18th-century campaigner's memoir of slavery. Ages 16+.