Muscovado: Holy Trinity Church, Clapham Common


‘It takes sixteen months for the sugarcane to ripen…After the sugar has cured – we are left with a dark brown block, this is muscovado’

There is much to applaud in this stirring atmospheric production. The venue is an excellent choice, with the audience entering the space up the aisle and sitting on the choir pews (some cushions might be appreciated for older bottoms). Holy Trinity, on Clapham Common is an imposing building and certainly conveys a sense of history. Muscovado uses this site-specificity to tackle difficult issues. It attempts to grapple with each character’s slavery story, black, white or mixed race. Woman and man. In so doing we see more than the slavery itself, we see family, relationships, ownership and ultimately life. We see tragedy wrapped up in barrenness and loss and humanity’s desperate attempts to compensate empty guilt-riddled existences.

Set in Barbados in 1808, writer Matilda Ibini (with original music by James Reynolds and historical material related to family of director Clemmie Reynolds) weaves an intriguing story of a family, household and plantation and the challenges they all endure. There is joy and suffering and at times it is painful viewing. It did feel very poignant being at the very church where William Wilberforce and the “Clapham Sect” began their abolition campaign.

The first half is a little overlong. The production could do with some tightening and I wondered whether the music – a beautiful addition – was at times a bit of a distraction. The ensemble cast work well together and deliver the material with competence. This isn’t theatre for the faint-hearted – it’s gruelling stuff. But it is worth seeing. Go if you can.

(C) Katie Richardson 2014.

Written by Matilda Ibini
Directed by Clemmie Reynolds
Original Music by James Reynolds
1,2,3,6,7,8,9,10 October
Holy Trinity Church, Clapham Common, SW4 0QZ

Burnt Out Theatre @BurntOutTheatre

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