★★★★ – timelessly humorous, and endlessly brilliant.

When an actor comes on stage and asks the existential question “Who do I think I am?”, then we know it’s going to be a reflective piece where we and the actor come together and ponder the meaning of life, and begin dwelling on the smallest of things. ‘Sancho’ graced the studio theatre of The Rep with an energetic, hilarious and, with many shades of brilliance that grabbed the audience’s attention instantly, performance that left us wanting more by the end.

Patterson Joseph wrote and performed the evocative and stunning production: ‘Sancho.’ It is the story of the first black gentleman in British history, which happened during the reign of Elizabeth I era, and monarch of which was extremely xenophobic. The black gentleman’s name was Charles Ignatius Sancho, and Patterson discovered the portrait of the said gentleman which was painted by Thomas Gainsborough, painted in a book entitled ‘Black Britain’ by Gretchen Gerzina, and this fuelled his research and the eventual creation of the play.

It would not be existentialist if it didn’t have a plethora of Hamlet references deliciously embedded in the writing. Being a Shakespeare geek, I celebrated enthusiastically with every Hamlet quote spoken, such as, ‘Frailty thy name is…”Sancho”’; ‘That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain!’ and of course ‘The play’s the thing…’, all of which, I most powerfully and potently believe were designed to connect the thought of the actor with the audience’s thoughts about existential matters. It is clear from Patterson’s experience with performing Shakespeare plays that he is able to aptly adapt his writing to the era, and easily transport the spectators to the 16th century, where he laid his scene.

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The set was designed by Michael Vale, whose credits extend to working with the Royal Shakespeare Company, The National Theatre, The Royal Opera House, any many other titanic theatre houses, experience of which lent itself brilliantly to ‘Sancho’. The set was built to be multi-purposed and every inch was used and re-used to shape different times, people, and houses. There was a huge slant of wood, which served a ship, but then it was also a podium for orators to speak. Efficient and magnificent.
When you think you know all there is to know about British History, Sancho challenges that, and with enthusiasm and distinction of tone, he educates us on what really happened and how colonialism was seen then, mentality of which has maintained with today’s mentality, particularly with regards to the Syria crisis. The heartless and uneducated things that people are saying, evidences the way that people of this country think, which is not entirely different from the views of our forefathers’.
Sancho runs at The Rep – Birmingham till the 25th September.
By Alex Da Silva

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