I was pleasantly surprised at how affordable tickets were, and curious about the venue - Wilton's Music Hall, which is a new one for me. The music hall is in Whitechapel, just off Cable Street,and dates back to the early 1800 (although the buildings are older).
The performance is a monologue, told in the first person, about the real -life historical figure, Ignatius Sancho, who was born on a slave ship, in around 1729. His mother died shortly after his birth, his father killed himself rather than endure life in slavery, and he was given as a gift to three sisters living in Greenwich, who saw him as a fashionable curiosity. They also considered that allowing him to learn to read would make him dissatisfied with his lot....
He became writer and composer, publishing a number of plays, and became a friend and correspondent of many notables in Georgian society, including Laurence Sterne. His portrait was painted by Gainsborough in 1768, and later, after opening a grocers shop in London (and becoming a property owner) he qualified to vote, and became the first known black British voter.
It is a fascinating story, and Paterson Joseph (who wrote the script, as well as performing the monologue ) brought it vividly to life.
He opens the show as himself, explaining that as a young actor he wanted to be in a costume drama, but was told that "in England before the twentieth century there were'n't any black people" (except, as he comments, the black centurions on Hadrian's wall, the emperor Septimus Severus, the 'blackmoores' whom Elizabeth I ordered to be expelled from the Kingdom), so he did some research, learned about Ignatius Sancho, and has written his own costume drama..
The performance 'proper' then begins, with Paterson, in character as Sancho, telling the story of his life, which is fascinating , poignant, and at times, very funny. He is wonderfully versatile, Sancho appears vividly, first as a small boy, a young man, enthused and mesmerised by the opportunity to learn, a disappointed thespian, through to the older, sadder man, plagued with weight and gout, mourning the loss of a child and but celebrating his long and successful marriage, and finally, reaching the point where he is able to vote, casting his ballot in support of Charles Fox, abolitionist.
It's ultimately a highly entertaining and surprisingly, given the subject matter, uplifting play.
I'd like to go back an see it again, but sadly as the run ends on 16th June I shall not have the chance, but it you are in London, or can make it there, do go.
Edited to add - The BBC has a segment about Sancho and the show, here