BLACK ATLAS - Production Details

“LSW's blend of theatrical professionals, prison inmates, ex-offenders and community members works at the highest level …. What is most impressive is the commitment of the entire company and its rare passion for language”                                                                                                                                                                          Michael Billington, The Guardian

 

In 2006 LSW launched its first national UK tour playing venues ranging from the Theatre Royal Bath to Alnwick Playhouse; from King William’s College on the Isle of Man to Lincoln’s thrilling Drill Hall.  ‘BLACKING IAGO’. an original take on Shakespeare’s Othello, met with universal acclaim:


“LSW performs with a power and an intensity that is all too rarely seen on today’s stages …. We were treated to electrifying performances, up close and personal. …. There can be no question but that this performance made an indelible mark on every one of its audience members.”     David Upton, Metro 



Now LSW has developed an entirely new play, ‘
BLACK ATLAS celebrating not only racial diversity, but also the 2007 Anniversary of the Bicentennial of the abolition of slavery in the British Empire.  Piloted at LSW’s London home, the Intermission Theatre at St. Saviour's in Knightsbridge in November 2005, the response to the development of BLACK ATLAS has been ecstatic: 


BLACK ATLAS lit up the stage not only with its energy and commitment, but with grace.  The choral voices, the singing, the colourful historical characters and the movement were revelatory.  The musicians held us rapt with their magnificent artistry.  In its entirety BLACK ATLAS is a stunning work of art.
:  A vivid portrait of a vital slice of British History.  We must – as a country – as a race - never forget.”          


                                                    
  John Casson, Camden New Journal

 

 

LSW’s World Premiere Production of BLACK ATLAS thrives on the exploration of ‘inter-racial issues’ and Britian’s historical record.

 

WHY IS THE 2007 ANNIVERSARY OF THE
 BICENTENARY OF THE ABOLITION 
OF SLAVERY IMPORTANT?

 

Contemporary Britain reflects:

 

 

"William Wilberforce's achievement and the suffering of so many must be remembered in 2007. This anniversary is an opportunity to reflect on the struggles of the past, the progress we have made and also the challenges that remain."    

     
John Prescott, Deputy Prime Minister


"I want to make sure that in 2007 we pay tribute to all those who had a stake in the abolition – the victims of the slave trade, the ordinary people who campaigned for change, and the abolitionists themselves. I particularly want to ensure that we recognise those black abolitionists who deserve such a prominent place in history. I am glad that this major anniversary will play a major part of the cultural life in this country in 2007."          

      
David Lammy, Culture Minister


"I believe it is vital that events should involve people from all our diverse cultures and communities. As with all aspects of cohesion and increasing race equality, the Government can only hope to bring about change with the support of the communities themselves.  

       Paul Goggins, Race Relations Minister


As we struggle to understand the nature of our nation, its identity and its place in the world we have to shine the light into every crevice of our past.  Slavery may not be an attractive episode in our history but it belongs to all of us, and reveals that, whatever we think we are, we still have a shared past. 
  

                 Trevor Phillips, Chair, Commission for Racial Equality



Even today we are not free. .... There is the slavery of poverty, injustice and greed – sexual and financial. There is slavery caused by the HIV/Aids pandemic, by violence, all of which is guaranteed to keep people forever captive unless delivered by truth and reconciliation.
At the heart of the Church's apology to people who have suffered is the acknowledgment that Britain played as a big role in the slave trade as in the abolition of it.

          Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

Tristram Hunt's excellent Guardian article puts the Bicentenary Anniversary in perspective.  This can be read by clicking on the image below:

 

 

BLACK ATLAS will help theatre and educational audiences honour the past as well as look forward to a brighter future.  In BLACK ATLAS the words and music ultimately must do the walking –  with force and with joy.  


Tom Molineaux, a slave from Louisana who won his freedom fighting, staggers in fatigue in the midst of his final boxing match against the British 'Champeen' Tom Cribb.  Bill Richmond, himself a former slave from Africa, turns and insists in his ear:

"When a black man wins, Tom – and lets his faith make our world BELIEVE he has WON – he will have changed OUR world forever."

 In BLACK ATLAS equality comes in a multitude of guises:

·     Each member of the cast wears the same basic costume – much as the vast majority of prisoners wear prison issue.  The entire company performs under a general wash of lights.  The magic of this tale of two slaves lies in the language.  It speaks for itself.  It must.   

·     There is no discernable set – just a set of chairs at the back of the performing space.  Only a few simple props are employed.  The Audience’s imagination is enabled from the outset and we aim to engage throughout.  A selection of audience members sit on the stage in two rows aside the actors ‘holding, as ‘twere, the mirror up to nature’.  Additionally - from a practical perspective - this allows smaller venue managers an opportunity for additional capacity.   

·     A wholly original score for piano and cello composed by LSW’s celebrated musical director, Tim Williams, accompanies BLACK ATLAS throughout.  The music – as in all LSW undertakings – is a character. It is very much 'of a piece'.  The musicians (cello, keyboard) respond and create a dialogue of mood; they set and costume the production.  BLACK ATLAS’ five original songs are enhanced by several historical musical extracts.    

·     Upon entry into the performing space, the BLACK ATLAS Company is seen on-stage welcoming those who are to join them on that magical platform.  Suddenly, Tom Molineaux writhes in the centre.  The singer (Aaron Romano pictured) rises, singing in a sonorous baritone.  The play has begun.   Eighty minutes later, upon the play’s interval-less completion, the audience has an opportunity to share its own thoughts on the work and its crucial historical ideology during a 20 minute ‘talk-back’.  Original inmate writing and further original songs supporting diversity are heard. A complimentary sheet noting the historical end of the characters seen in the play is offered to all.  The dramatic communion is now complete.