July 4 – 31 2016 – The Theatre Room, London, EC2R 8AB
Star Rating ~ ****
Mary Seacole is a historical figure whom I had no prior knowledge of, but this one woman show summarises the highlights of her life and career, wonderfully. A physician with a successful track record, she was frequently on a quest to further her knowledge and restless to be on her travels.
Performed at The So & So Arts Club as part of the Women and War Festival, Cleo Sylvestre stars in the title role, she is also the writer, together with Judith Paris. Sylvestre’s audience interaction ability grabbed my attention from the beginning, in a show of this nature where it’s an intimate space, I think it’s vital for the performer to draw you in. It was certainly a key element for me to be able to feel as though I was developing a mutual ‘relationship’ with ‘Mary’ herself as her tale was told.
I thought that the direction (this piece was directed by the Founder of The So & So Arts Club, Sarah Berger) was subtle yet apparent throughout and added to the smooth ebb and flow of the monologue. The set, though atmospheric, was occasionally a hindrance, which probably would not have been so evident in a larger space.
Overall, it’s a thoughtfully written piece which is performed from the heart and there is room to develop it into a longer and multi-character play, too. Congratulations to The So & So Arts Club for bringing an important figure to my notice, for Mary Seacole is as treasured a part of history as Florence Nightingale.
Photo Credit: Women and War Festival.