This winter, Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) will welcome Oxford Playhouse’s Sancho: An Act of Remembrance, starring celebrated Royal Shakespeare Company actor Paterson Joseph, as a part of the yearlong Shakespeare 400 Chicago celebration. Written and directed by Paterson Joseph and co-directed by Simon Godwin, the poignant play examines the curious, daringly determined life of Charles Ignatius Sancho—eighteenth-century composer, social satirist, general man of refinement—who was the first British-African to vote in 1774. Largely forgotten by history, Paterson aims to preserve Sancho’s incredible true story for today’s generation.
Born on a slave ship but never a slave, Sancho became the first black person of African origin to vote in Britain in 1774. Among his circle of friends was David Garrick, celebrated Shakespeare actor and theater owner. A renowned man of letters, Sancho quoted Shakespeare more than he did any other author in his prodigious writing. As Thomas Gainsborough paints his famous portrait, we are given an insight into the forgotten but true story of an African man who dared to act, write, sing, dance and voice his political opinion with wit and charm. This endlessly revealing, frequently funny one-man show casts a new light on the often-misunderstood narratives of the African-British experience.
The New York Times called the work “a detailed portrait of a man who was an interested witness to the events of his day and who helped, however slightly, to shape them.”
Paterson Joseph is a leading British actor seen most recently as Brutus in Julius Caesar at the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he has also appeared in Don Juan, Troilus and Cressida, Love's Labours Lost and King Lear. He appears regularly at the National Theatre in London, as well as the Royal Exchange, Gate, Almeida and Young Vic Theatres. The actor’s television credits includes BBC's The Hollow Crown (PBS), The Leftovers (HBO) and Danny Boyle’s Babylon. Paterson is also a season regular in Law and Order UK and he Paterson stars as General Arnold Gaines in NBC's new apocalyptic comedic drama, You, Me and the Apocalypse, which also features Rob Lowe, Jenna Fischer and Megan Mullally.
If the man that inspired the work, Paterson Joseph explained, “Charles Ignatius Sancho is a hero to all black Britons who aspire to be a functioning and integral part of the country of their birth, the country of their adoption. And for all of us, of whatever shade, he shows the way to count our circumstances as given, but not the final word on our destiny.”
Sancho: An Act of Remembrance is performed in CST’s theater Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare for 6 performances only, February 17–21, 2016.
For more information, visit www.chicagoshakes.com/sancho.
Clef Notes Chicagoland Journal for the Arts
Royal Shakespeare Company actor Paterson Joseph will star as Charles Ignatius Sancho, the first British-African to vote (photo courtesy of Chicago Shakespeare Theater).
Celebrated Actor Bringing the Story of Charles Ignatius Sancho, the First British-African to Vote, to the CST Stage