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Posts Tagged ‘Mary Seacole’

The Donmar’s last production, Henry V, a play about one sovereign nation invading another based on a dubious historical premise, opened as a sovereign nation invaded another based on a dubious historical premise. It’s current production is Jackie Sibblies Dury’s play, ostensibly about the 19th century Jamaican nurse famous for her nursing during the Crimean War, against the Russians. Timeliness indeed.

I say ostensibly as it’s not a biography of Seacole, but uses her as a symbolic representation of how black nurses, or rather black people in general, have been used for centuries. As the character of her mother says in the final part ‘they need us, but they don’t want us’. I think the reason for the plural Mary’s is that in addition to THE Mary Seacole, who we encounter in Jamaica as well as the US, England & Crimea, we also meet what appear to be contemporary carers, her ‘descendants’, and the attitudes of those they serve.

Based on this, and her play Fairview which we saw here in 2019 (https://garethjames.wordpress.com/2019/12/06/fairview), I think she’s too fond of shock & surprise, and too focused on structure & form over content, to be a great storyteller. That said, this is a lot less heavy-handed than Fairview, thereby more successful in making it’s point, in my view. The six actors, most of which play multiple roles, serve the play well, including a fine leading performance from Kayla Meikle.

It seems to me that it falls between two stools, a biography of Mary Seacole and a statement on black lives matter, but neither has quite enough substance.

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