Tayo Aluko and Friends have two shows available both live and online on-demand at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, and this one focuses on Nigerian Tunji Sowande (1912-1996), concert singer, cricket fan, and Britain’s first Black judge.
Aluko has a measured delivery in speech and a bass-baritone singing voice to envy – no surprise he is also in town this Fringe playing the performer and political activist Paul Robeson.
His plays promote Black history, activism and resistance, and mix a thoughtful and detailed sense of drama with music and cultural reference (here, the D’Oliveira Affair which caused South Africa to be excluded from international cricket for over twenty years).
As Sowande settles in England in the 1940s as a young barrister, he reels off the hallowed halls of cricket (The Oval, Trent Bridge, Edgbaston). It is a triumph of anti-racist ideology and political sensibility.
This is a play which reaches in to highlight the big issues of Empire, exploitation and emancipation from the perspective of one man who spreads hope and peace through music, and spends his leisure time as MCC member at Lord’s, “the home of cricket”.
Imagine for a moment that this cultured and calm man has to contend in an interview in chambers that he couldn’t be employed because his name would indicate he “was an African” and “what would people think of our firm?”
Recorded before an audience and directed by Amanda Huxtable, with designs by Emma Williams, this is a fascinating piece. I wasn’t aware of Sowande’s life but wanted to know a lot more about this “ordinary lawyer” after seeing this play.
Remarkable work. I look forward to seeing Calling Mr Robeson very soon.
You can see Just an Ordinary Lawyer live on 22-28 August at C Arts, or online on-demand throughout the Fringe: purchase tickets here.
For more on the work of Tayo Aluko, visit his website.