THE BITTER price of freedom is exposed in Juliet Gilkes Romero’s new play The Whip at the RSC’s Swan Theatre.
As the 19th century dawns, politicians of all political persuasions gather in London to abolish the slave trade once and for all.
But will the price of freedom turn out to be a multi-billion pound pay off to the slave owners, even though such a bailout could drive the country into economic and political ruin?
As morality and corruption clash in a world of men thirsty for power, two women forge an unlikely union and fight their way to the seat of political influence, challenging MPs who dare deny them their say.
In the play, directed by Kimberley Sykes, the personal collides with the political to ask what is the right thing to do and how much must it cost?
Gilkes Romero is a playwright and journalist who has reported for the BBC from countries including Ethiopia, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Talking about The Whip, she said: “The 1833 Slavery abolition Act formally freed some 800,000 Caribbean slaves who were then the legal property of Britain’s slave owners. What is less well known is that the same act contained a provision for the financial compensation of the owners of those slaves, by the British taxpayer, for the loss of their “property”.
“In 2018 HM Treasury announced via a tweet on its Twitter-feed that the multi-billion slavery compensation bill, one of the biggest in UK history, had finally been paid off by British taxpayers in February 2015. Most Britons, including myself, had no idea we had been paying for this 182 years later. There was a social media backlash over the glib nature of tweet which was subsequently deleted. I am a descendant of colonial slavery, so the row added further urgency and fire to my creative process in creating The Whip.”
The Whip runs from February 1 to March 21.
Visit rsc.org.uk for tickets and further details.