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Cast announced for Giles Terera's The Meaning of Zong at Bristol Old Vic

The Meaning of Zong

Casting has been announced for the theatrical premiere of The Meaning of Zong at Bristol Old Vic.

Giles Terera’s debut stage play, co-directed by Giles Terera and Tom Morris, will run at the venue from 2 – 9 April and 26 April – 7 May 2022.

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This visionary play tells the true story of pioneering abolitionist Olaudah Equiano and how one man’s spirit can fundamentally change a nation.

Giles Terera plays Olaudah Equiano with Paul Higgins as Granville Sharp, Bethan Mary-James as Joyi/Lord Mansfield, Alice Vilanculo as Riba and Simon Holland Roberts as Sir John Lee/Robert Stubbs/William Woodfall.

Also on the cast are Kiera Lester as Ama/Gloria, Eliza Smith playing Annie Greenwood and Remi King as Arthur Pigot/Kelsall.

They are joined onstage by Composer and Musical Director Sidiki Dembele a multi-instrumentalist, originally from the Ivory Coast.

The creative team is completed by Set and Costume Designer Jean Chan, Lighting Designer Zeynep Kepekli, Sound Designer and Co-Composer Dave Price, Movement Director Ingrid Mackinnon, Projection Will Duke with Tom Newell of Limbic Cinema, Assistant Director Nadia Williams and Dramatherapist Samantha Adams.

The Meaning of Zong explores Equiano’s unprecedented decision to tell his extraordinary life story as a weapon in the abolition movement.

It follows how he joined forces with anti-slavery campaigner Granville Sharp to publicly condemn the massacre aboard the slave ship Zong, setting in motion events which would go on to galvanise the abolition movement in the UK.

The Meaning of Zong was originally presented as a staged reading in 2018 before a planned production in 2020 was forced to be postponed due to the pandemic. Then reimagined as a radio play, the piece aired as part of BBC Radio 3’s Lights Up season in 2021.

Giles Terera said: “The Meaning of Zong is about the value of humanity and what we’re prepared to do to defend that. I wanted to tell this story because it explains how we all arrived at the Britain we are living in today.

“It explains why people feel the need to pull statues down. We can better understand where we are by acknowledging how we got here. It is a difficult subject but the best stories, though they can be the hardest to face are often the most rewarding.”

Following the show’s run in Bristol, it will tour to the Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh from 13 – 23 April and Liverpool Playhouse from 10 – 14 May.

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