The National Theatre of Scotland makes its debut at Pitlochry Festival Theatre with a highly appropriate piece of historical drama.
For it brings a return to Perthshire of Joseph Knight, an African man enslaved by sugar plantation owner Sir John Wedderburn, who, having made his fortune, returns with his entourage to his Ballindean estate (near Inchture).
Master and slave
Knight has formed an enduring friendship with his master, which is not to the liking of Wedderburn’s young wife, who feels increasingly neglected.
But Knight’s relationship with Annie, another servant in the household, brings added complications, as does his desire to be free of bondage.
Joseph’s dreams are branded selfish and ungrateful by Wedderburn, and all previous amity is abandoned. But, for Joseph, his future is tied up in the past — physical freedom is one thing, psychological freedom another.
It could be said that the highs and lows of the ensuing battle for Knight’s freedom (we all love a courtroom drama) were somewhat glossed over in the final few minutes.
Elements of comedy
Omar Austin brings a degree of stature and pride to the role of Joseph, with Matthew Pidgeon lording it around in a range of emotions as Sir John. Rachael-Rose McLaren gains all the sympathy as the ever-suffering wife Margaret.
Despite it’s high octane emotional outbursts, May Sumbwanyambe’s drama is not without its humour, mainly from the down-to-earth Annie — grumpy, gallus and garrulous, Catriona Faint takes it all in her stride.
Once again, the new Studio performance space at Pitlochry provides the ideal setting with the backdrop of a huge picture frame also doubling as a canvas for atmospheric lighting by Emma Jones.
And composer John Pfumojena’s soundtrack is a major contribution.
It is important that this story of Joseph Knight is told, and the realisation of Scotland’s attitude to slavery in the 18th Century is quite uplifting.
Enough Of Him, directed by Orla O’Loughlin, continues in the Pitlochry Studio theatre this week (Wednesday to Saturday), then heads out on tour culminating at Perth Theatre, November 16-19.