Theatre Review: Africker at Hoxton Hall

Take a roller-coaster ride through Victorian colonialism and Europe’s scramble for Africa in Freddy Syborn’s play AFRICKER at Hoxton Hall.

WRITER Freddy Syborn focuses a magnifying glass on colonialism during the Victorian era and Europe’s “Scramble for Africa” in this play.

A cast full of youth and exuberance realise the past through songs, humour and simply brilliant performances.

The ghost, played by Jude Owusu, does a good job in ruthlessly shedding light on the underbelly of the European slave trade and highlighting the milieu of mass murders, hypocrisy and devastation. Narrator Jacob Fortune (historian) battles through the play’s 1874-1901 timeline, as the performers occasionally digress their stories to explain points to the audience with insight. In one uncomfortable scene serial killer Fred West is even depicted, and in another scene towards the end Rudyard Kipling’s poem If is revisited, in one of the productions moments of laughter.

Caricatures are used to play certain characters and it is clear that the well-spoken cast do not seek to act using Victorian voices - in fact the odd F-word is thrown-in every now and then for good measure. The democracy theme is explored and portrayed as today’s neo-colonial substitute for Christianity, which is conveyed in the play as an intangible colonial export back then.

Outstanding cast members are Jessica Barker-Wren, who plays William Gladstone, and Lucy Wray as Stanley, while “drag” Queen Victoria is played by Tom Ross.

Playwright Syborn’s obvious passion for history is articulated to the audience with flair, as the play roller-coasters through the Boer Wars, Zulu rebellion, and Livingston and Cecil Rhodes’ Rhodesia. Irrespective of whether or not people buy into the play, it is undoubtedly educational and though nauseously dark in parts, it is lightened by pockets of humour.

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* Showing at Hoxton Hall in Hoxton Street, N1, until Sunday, March 27.