Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre hosts the premiere of Black Men Walking before the production embarks on a UK tour.

Inspired by a real-life Black men’s walking group based in Sheffield, Black Men Walking has been conceived by Eclipse in collaboration with Leeds-based rapper, singer, producer and performer Testament.  The production mixes story-telling with original music written by Testament and is performed by a four-person cast.

What is Black Men Walking About?

Thomas, Matthew and Richard meet every month as part of a walking group to explore the dramatic landscape of the Peak District, Yorkshire. On this particular trip, the rest of group cancels and it soon feels like maybe they should have done too. The men find themselves forced to walk backwards through two thousand years of Black history, embarking on a dangerous journey that invokes an element of the supernatural, an encounter with the spirits of their ancestors and an exploration of what it means to be both Black and British today.

Speaking about the production, Eclipse Artistic Director Dawn Walton commented, “This powerful story perfectly encompasses everything the Rev Mix movement stands for; turning the spotlight onto Britain’s missing Black history with a piece inspired by real people and real events. It is so important that these stories are told, especially when you look at the recent online backlash faced by Mary Beard who was accused of ‘re-writing history’ by pointing out the ethnic diversity of Roman Britain. This reaction is evidence of a real lack of understanding about our true British heritage. Open a history book and you’ll see that the Roman empire, Britain included, featured people from Ethiopia, Algeria and beyond.

“One of the earliest influences for Revolution Mix was Peter Fryer’s seminal book, ‘Staying Power’, which unearths a compelling history of Black people in Britain over the last 2,000 years. The opening line of the book is ‘There were Africans in Britain before the English came here.” That one statement is so wonderfully provocative and for me, it set the wheels in motion for us to produce a body of work that will bring to stage and screen an erased history. This is just the first of several new works from Revolution Mix set to tour in 2018, which is also the 70th anniversary of the arrival of Windrush, a milestone which is often celebrated as the start of modern multicultural Britain. Acting as the antithesis to this, Revolution Mix will delve deeper to explore Black British history long before, and since, Windrush, offering a new perspective and insight into the full Black British experience.”

Who is in the cast of Black Men Walking at the Royal Exchange Theatre?

The cast includes Tyrone Huggins as Thomas (The Tempest – Improbable/Northern Stage/Oxford Playhouse) Trevor Laird as Matthew (One Man, Two Guvnors  – National Theatre) and Tonderai Munyevu as Richard (Sizwe Banzi is Dead – Eclipse Theatre Company / Young Vic co-production). Completing the cast is Dorcas Sebuyange (Hayleigh in The Elasticated Soundsystem – 20 Storeys High).

Where and when is Black Men Walking performed in Manchester?

Black Men Walking is performed at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre from 18 January 2018 until 3 February 2018.  Tickets priced from £13.

Royal Exchange Theatre image courtesy University of Salford Press Office/flickr under creative commons licence.