This is an innovative play that presents the true history of Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman whose cancer cells were used to create the first immortalised human cell line. It opens with a rhythmic, spoken-word monologue delivered by Henrietta (Aminita Francis). We soon learn that her DNA, nicknamed by herself as “Did Not Ask”, was non-consensually taken from her body in 1951. It has since served as the key basis for medical research, including the development of HIV vaccines, investigation of cancer cells and more recently, the COVID vaccine.
In 1831, Mary Prince’s autobiography was the first book published in the UK about a Black woman. Her straightforward, emotive prose shares her lived experience of being an enslaved woman in the West Indies and England in great detail, including numerous accounts of abuse. This two-woman show embraces it all, packing this story of family separation, numerous masters, and a quest for freedom into an hour. Dance, music and ritual are embedded into the dramaturgy, too – this is a dense show, but one telling an important story that’s exquisitely performed.
The New York Times listed Jennifer Kidwel and Scott R Sheppard’s razor-sharp comedy
as one of the 25 best plays since Angels in America. Like a role-play game that gets
completely out of hand, it’s easy to see why.
Like many before and after him, Ignatius Sancho was born on a slave ship in 1729. Unlike other slaves, the orphan received an education, married, owned property, published letters and compositions, and was the first black person to vote in a British election.
How do I, a white woman from the world’s wealthiest country, voluntarily living in the world’s fifth wealthiest country, who is educated and working in the arts, evaluate a show about a black British woman’s experience of travelling slave trade routes?