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Enough of Him is a harrowing yet uplifting play about slavery and liberation

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Don’t miss your chance to catch May Sumbwanyambe’s play as it tours Scotland, writes Leo Ramsay
Issue 2830
Slave-owner Sir John Wedderburn embraces slave, Joseph Knight, in the play Enough of Him

Matthew Pidgeon and Omar Austin in Enough of Him. Picture: Sally Jubb

During October’s Black History Month events, the National Theatre of Scotland and Pitlochry Festival Theatre premiered Enough of Him.

This play by Glasgow‑based writer May Sumbwanyambe is based on the true story of Joseph Knight—an African‑Caribbean slave who gained his freedom in a Scottish court in 1778. It is an excellent, harrowing and ultimately uplifting drama about the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade and the struggle against it.

Knight was one of between 10 to 12 million Africans who were seized from their homes. In Jamaica he was sold to Sir John Wedderburn, a slave sugar plantation owner who took him to Scotland.

Sumbwanyambe sets his play at Wedderburn’s mansion at Ballindean, Perthshire. There we witness the distorted power relations between Wedderburn, his young wife Margaret, Knight and the servant Annie Thompson, who would become Knight’s wife.

Although set in Scotland, memories of the hell on Earth that was the slave colony in Jamaica are ever present in Knight and Wedderburn’s minds. Knight—played with tremendous dignity, humour and controlled anguish by Omar Austin—lives with that trauma.

Importantly, Sumbwanyambe has drawn Wedderburn with the same level of complexity. The slave owner is given a compellingly tortured characterisation by actor Matthew Pidgeon.

He is depicted as a man who cannot escape the psychological consequences of the appalling crimes he committed in Jamaica.

He confesses to his wife—played with subtlety by Rachael-Rose McLaren—that he cannot have a healthy sexual life due to the hideously violent sadism of his relations with black slave women in the Caribbean colony.

Enough of Him is sharply directed by Orla O’Loughlin and given intelligently sparse and evocative design by Fred Meller and Emma Jones. It is an unforgettably brilliant work of drama, and a resonating indictment of slavery and the racism it bequeathed to our society.

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