Set in 1792, amongst the merchant princes and cut-throat backstreets of Liverpool, in the Palace of Westminster in London and aboard the Blackamoor Jenny – a guineaman making its sixth “African voyage” to stock its foetid hold with human beings – Gabriel Gbadamosi’s play Abolition unfolds a dark, inglorious undercurrent of ‘Enlightenment’ Britain: its trade in slaves.
Arresting and deeply troubling, Abolition gives us the voices of people caught up in the original sin of slavery and fighting to survive it, profit from it, ignore it, or end it: slavers, slaves, sailors, and mobs, plus a radical abolitionist named Fox, the cautious anti-slavery politician William Wilberforce and a pragmatic Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger.
Underpinned by impeccable research and uncanny fidelity to the language of its time, the play depicts a society both conflicted and very comfortable with the trade in African bodies. In Parliament, there is debate over moral hygiene and economic turbulence in the ship of state, whilst at sea the Blackamoor Jenny struggles with storms and depraved acts, driven on by the ever-urgent imperatives of money.
“A powerful, complex play that doesn’t make any compromises with the reader … The setting, politics and especially the language are utterly convincing.”
PROF. NIGEL LEASK, UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW
“Haunting, poetic and brilliantly researched.”
S. I. MARTIN
“A voyage of the damned, burning with fiery poetry.”