Coventry Belgrade B2


In half light, with haunting music to accompany the opening scene of this amazing production, the writhing, contorting frames of the six actors, slithered, sprang and posed in a frenzy of athletic and balletic moves. This was just a taster of the superb production that unfolded on the B2 Stage at Coventry Belgrade.

Strictly Arts Company, with artistic director, Corey Campbell,  bill their theatrical presentations with the maxim, “Our mission is to turn conventional theatre on its head. We aim to create and revisit theatre that inspires all races, creeds and cultures to explore and embrace the differences or similarities we have, through the power of live performance” 

In 19th century New York, a black man, named William Freeman, became the first person to raise ‘insanity’ as a defence in an American trial. Inspired by this story, Strictly Arts explore the relationships between people of colour, the criminal justice system and mental health.

Spanning from segregated 1846 America, right up to the death of Sarah Reed in the U.K. in 2016, “Freeman” features an eclectic mix of high energy physical theatre, a-cappella singing, humour and powerful drama to create an extraordinary moving, and thought provoking experience.

The social stigma, isolation and fear interpreted by the Company came across in waves of beautiful characterisation with each snappy, well-paced scene, seamlessly flowing throughout. The emotional struggles, racial, verbal and physical abuse in the scenarios from across history, was palpably strong, the pace was varied but totally appropriate.

The atrocities endured by the wrongly accused was interpreted with sensitivity, and the helplessness of their horrific incarcerations was all the more poignant as factual accounts from true life. A constant phrase was, ‘black lives matter’, surely an adage with profound moral significance for all to consider.

Particular highlights, (though there were numerous ones from which to choose) was the clever interpretation of a horse, part actors, part sculptured framework. Also, a mention for the jive, dancing to the track from Little Richard. What a delight! The shadow puppetry also added an extra element. Even a snippet of Shakespeare was used to excellent effect.

So much on offer in this play on so many different levels, the standard and precision of the acting was faultless, and, the one enduring adjective that was on everyone’s lips was the word powerful. An apt description that encapsulates the very essence of this play. For a memorable, exceptional experience with expressive versatile acting, and top class dancing and movement this is one that mustn't be missed. Catch it now!

Corey Campbell was William Freeman while Marcel White played David Oluwale with Pip Barclay as Daniel M’naghten,  Keiren Amos as Michael Bailey, Aimee Powell as Sarah Reed and Kimisha Lewis as Sandra Bland

Directed by Daniele Sanderson and written by Camilla Whitehall, Freeman runs to 30-09-17

Elizabeth M Smith and Rosemary Manjunath


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