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'Early Africans who arrived in Britain were not poor'

NEW PLAY: TV star Paterson Joseph

THE COMMON perception that the first African people came to Britain centuries ago were poverty-stricken has been blown away in a powerful new play written and performed by renowned film, stage and TV actor Paterson Joseph.

Sancho – An Act of Remembrance is a one-man masterpiece written by Joseph celebrating the extraordinary life of Charles Ignatius Sancho which casts new light on the early African people who came to Britain in the eighteenth century.

As a composer, actor, social satirist and general man of refinement, Sancho is credited with becoming the first British-African to vote in Britain.

And he was immortalised in a painting by Thomas Gainsborough, a leading portraitist of the time, while he worked as a butler for the Duchess of Montagu in London.

Born on a slave ship but never a slave, Sancho became life-long friends with the actor and theatre manager David Garrick, while also counting prominent musicians and preachers within his immediate circle.

Joseph, well known for his numerous roles in BBC soap Casualty, Hollywood film, The Beach and the title role in a Royal Shakespeare Theatre production of Othello, said: “I wrote the play back in 2007 and it took quite some time to find the right co-director, who thankfully I have found in Simon Godwin. This is so vital for a one-man show.

“I like to think this is a story giving a picture of eighteenth century England with more colour. Sancho at that time was much more finely dressed that most of the population. The refined way he spoke and his witty ripostes drew him considerable attention.”

Sancho, who was also a man of letters, became involved in the anti-slavery debate, urging the famous writer Laurence Sterne to use his influence to lobby for the abolition of the slave trade.

The staging of Joseph’s one-man show coincides with his new Sky NBC sci-fi drama You, Me and the End of the World, which Joseph said he had wanted to call ‘Apocalypse Slough.’

Sancho – An Act of Remembrance will be staged at Oxford Playhouse between September 17 - 19, 2015 (tickets 01865 305 305) before moving to Birmingham Repertory Theatre from September 22 to September 25 (tickets 0121 236 4455).

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