Gerrard Winstanley’s True and Righteous Mobile Incitement Unit – Review – ★★★★
A celebration of radical moments from British history, with a show-stopping guest performance from Saida Tani.
Gerrard Winstanley’s True and Righteous Mobile Incitement Unit | Brady Arts Centre | 5 & 6 November | £10
Opening Tower Hamlets Council’s Freedom & Independence Theatre Festival (a renaming of the annual ‘Season of Bangla Drama, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Independence of Bangladesh), Daedalus Theatre Company present a song and spoken-word guide to progressive fights for freedom through British history.
An entertaining yet informative piece, Gerrard Winstanley’s True and Righteous Mobile Incitement Unit is a touring production which incorporates local history wherever it goes – and here, though the absence of Bengali representation initially appears oddly out of step with the context (the festival aims to profile British Bangladeshi theatre; the venue is located at the heart of a vibrant Bangladeshi community), elements of the fight for the independence of Bangladesh, as well as local historical and ongoing battles against the threat of oppression, are sensitively interwoven into the narrative.
Performers Rhiannon Kelly and The Black Smock Band (Andy Bannister, Paul Burgess & Dan Cox) are an engaging and enthusiastic (though perhaps a little too twee to represent the working classes) group of musical storytellers, Kelly leading with the majority of the spoken-word and adding flute to the three-piece folk stylings of the band. As we learn about Gerrard Winstanley, The Diggers, and various other protest movements, we are also treated to folk songs from the periods in question, expertly performed on guitar, accordion and violin.
A stand-out moment comes mid-way through the performance, as our players are joined by Bangladeshi singer- songwriter Saida Tani, whose soaring vocals pack an incredible emotional punch. Whilst the show as a whole never sags, Tani’s performance nevertheless acts as a mid-show power boost.
There are some admirable attempts to encourage audience participation in the songs, with varying success – one of the singalong choruses poses a bit more of a challenge than most audiences will be able to handle, perhaps!
The atmosphere, throughout, is one of community and togetherness, though, and any doubts one might have at the outset – that this might all be so much preaching worthiness – are well and truly forgotten by the close.
The Freedom & Independence Theatre Festival continues until 28th November – check out the full programme here.