One of the plays believed to have been performed in the Portchester theatre was a historical drama entitled “The Revolutionary Philanthropist”, first staged by prisoners of war on one of the prison ships out in the bay beneath the castle in 1807. Written by a member of the naval expedition sent by Napoleon to reclaim the former colony of Haiti, the play explored how enslaved people of African descent had fought for their freedom in Haiti in 1791. The lives and experiences of the fictional characters portrayed in the play mirror those of the Black and Mixed Race soldiers imprisoned at Portchester in 1796.
With performers from the NYT and local youth groups, we will reimagine this play, switching the focus away from the original colonial male perspective, and retelling it from a Black female point of view.
Writer Lakesha Arie-Angelo and Director Mumba Dodwell will help us to creatively retell this story, revealing the hidden stories of the Portchester prisoners whilst also exploring themes of race, identity and discrimination that are still relevant today.
Since Summer 2020 we’ve been exploring the legacy of revolution and rebellion against slavery in the Caribbean as well as the prisoner of war experience through a series of online performance workshops. Historians from the University of Warwick helping us to uncover more about the stories of their journey and their lives. We will also work with a local youth group to explore these themes further and encourage people who live in and around Portchester to share their voice and influence in the production of the new play.