Five Years With the White Man, VAULT Festival

by Zahid Fayyaz

This a one-man show, with the aid of props and sound design, ostensibly tells the story of ABC Merriman-Labor, an African satirist who wrote a scathing story of a Black man living in London after coming from Sierra Leone. This particular production, however, jumps around in time to tell the story of the production of the play from the perspective of the actor as well, and how the play’s subject of ABC’s forbidden love for his friend John Roberts mirrors the actor’s own relationship with Alfred, the shows own writer.

Joseph Akubeze plays the main role excellently, holding the stage with aplomb. Using a lamp to represent John Roberts, as well as a white board to visualize both stories, it’s certainly not static as a one-man show. There constant movement and mood changes expertly undertaken. The writing is also great. In particular the ending is very emotional and moving.

This show coincides with the republishing of ABC Merrman-Labor’s work in a new collected edition this year. One hopes the show based on such has a future life past this festival, as it is certainly worth it. Comes with a high recommendation to watch wherever it may resurface next.

Five Years With the White Man runs through 5 March.

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