A black man born on a slave ship in early 18th-century Britain goes on to enjoy a career as a famous musician, composer, author and actor. And in 1774, he becomes the first black Briton to cast a vote in a British general election.
It’s a tale so improbable that even the first page of its own script ponders the question: is it a joke? But it is not. It’s the life of Charles Ignatius Sancho.
Sancho: An Act of Remembrance is a one-man show diligently written and exuberantly brought to life by Paterson Joseph. His performance is vigorous yet delicate – he presents the eponymous character with a soft lisp.
We see in Michael Vale’s set a hint of Sancho’s beginnings on that slave ship in the Atlantic. It’s made up of various wood-stained crates with a slatted wood backdrop on which a portrait of the main man hangs.
Meanwhile, Ben Park’s sound helps set the scene. There’s a hubbub of conversation for a party, or birdsong to indicate the break of dawn. And, sometimes, some of Sancho’s own compositions.
There is no fourth wall in this production, which is handled with gusto. Joseph locks eyes across the auditorium, directly addresses the laughs and retorts of audience members, and at one point leads an unsuspecting woman up on to the stage to give her a dance lesson.
It feels more like An Evening With Sancho than An Act of Remembrance; he is truly in the room.