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  • Writer's pictureHinton Magazine

Five Years With The White Man

The life-story of an African satirist who dreamed of becoming the greatest writer of the Edwardian era

Written by Eloka Obi & Saul Boyer | Directed by Sam Rayner

VAULT Festival, Studio, 28 Feb – 5 March, Week 6

PRESS PERFORMANCE: Wed 1st March 7:50pm (Press welcome from the 1st onwards)

Physical theatre at its most immaculate” ★★★★ The Scotsman (on The Man Who Thought He Knew Too Much)

Twitter: @LlamaUnleash | Insta: @UnleashTheLlama | #FiveYearsWithTheWhiteMan

Unleash The Llama highlights a forgotten figure of Black British History with the first theatrical adaptation of the life of A.B.C Merriman-Labor, an African satirist who dreamed of becoming the greatest writer in the British Empire. This charismatic one-performer show features a kaleidoscope of characters brought to life through object puppetry and live sound effects, blending an Edwardian stand-up set with a contemporary exploration of racial and sexual identity.

Embarking on a defiant journey from Sierra Leone to the ‘horrifying heart of whiteness’ in Edwardian London, Merriman-Labor wrestles with romantic ruin, financial catastrophe, and severe writers’ block to compose the first satirical ethnography of The White Man ever attempted. But when details of his intimate friendship with John Roberts spark rumours back in Freetown, he is faced with the impossible choice of exposure or oblivion.

Five Years With The White Man was developed through a process of research into Merriman-Labor’s extant writings, with the help of Sierra Leonean historian Professor Joseph J. Bangura, Merriman-Labor's great nephew (Melbourne Garber), and his biographer (Danell Jones), to represent Edwardian Britain from the perspective of a British colonial subject. Unleash the Llama hope to shed light on the neglected history of this trailblazing figure who was an author, a pioneer in business (championing African suppliers) and a travelling lecturer, who embarked on a 1000-mile tour of Africa, delivering a satirical lecture on the behaviours of ‘The White Man’. Before being delayed due to Covid precautions, the production was first scheduled for February 2022, to coincide with the republication of Merriman-Labor’s work by Penguin Press, in a series edited by Booker-winning novelist Bernardine Evaristo. The play itself will be published by Nick Hern Books as part of its Plays From VAULT 2023 collection.

Co-writers Eloka Obi and Saul Boyer said Five Years is a resurrection of Black British History that is as necessary as it is entertaining. Black British perspectives in history scarcely represent the rich diversity of Black British people, and we hope that this play will go a little way in helping that. VAULT Festival, in all its chaotic, exuberant creativity and diversity, is the perfect venue to reclaim a story that explores the intersection of LGBTQIA+ themes and the perspectives of People of Colour.”

Unleash the Llama stage ambitious, genre-defying comedies, inspired by the personal narratives of its collaborators. Addressing socio-political themes with intensive historical research, they encourage audiences to explore the complexities of British society. The company’s productions include the Edinburgh Fringe Festival sellout shows and Offie-commended JEW...ish, and Man of One Hundred Faces, both written by Saul Boyer.

Further collaborators for this production include Eloka Obi, a Nigerian-British writer and performer who has an original television series in development; and Sam Rayner, co-director of the Offie-nominated The Man Who Thought He Knew Too Much, and movement director for comedies including Jack Whitehall: At Large, and Leo Reich: Literally Who Cares?!. The Unleash The Llama team are joined by London based actor and writer Joseph Akubeze - an ex-Mormon, whose recent credits include Hugo in the Netflix show the Bastard Son & The Devil Himself, directed by Colm McCarthy, Hulu’s Black Cake, Ted Lasso, and Bridgerton.

Running Time: 60 mins | Suitable for ages 14+ Contains strong language and discussion of racial prejudice.


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