Unanchored, Bread & Roses Theatre - Review

Written and directed by Lisa Sillaway, Unanchored is an astute play that subliminally comments on the world today through its historical setting. Set during the American War of Independence, the action takes place on a prison ship off the East Coast. Under the watchful eye of 'the Captain' (Dave Mattless), Katherine Rodden as Emma 'the Leper' is kept prisoner in isolation. A suspected spy for the Loyalist/British forces, duress and kindness are used to try to persuade her to divulge what she knows and switch sides...

Anyone who has seen Rodden earlier this year in the play Constance Kentucky knows how she can make any role the interesting to watch, and in Unanchored as the main character, she puts this to good use. As the defiant, but infirm Emma, we see her struggle with trying to keeping her dignity and spirit intact, while her body does its best to deprive her of such things.

Playing 'Bess', the slave that the captain provides to Emma to treat her leprosy, Deidre Garcia is a welcome addition to the cast, providing sass, as well as empathy and solace that only female company can bring. Both women are one way or another 'outsiders'; both have more influence than the men around them realise...

One fact that cropped up in the play (which I hadn't realised before) was George Washington (like many of the Founding Fathers) owned slaves. I knew the likes of Thomas Jefferson owned slaves and that slavery was the sticking point of the American Civil War, but for whatever reason I hadn't thought of them being around at the inception of the Constitution. One wonders how could one come up with the unalienable rights of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" when a major part of the population was denied this? And if this was set in stone from the beginning, it's no wonder that history is replete with periods of conflict and social upheaval...

Since watching Unanchored, I've found out after digging around that some of Washington's own slaves who managed to escape his household joined the Loyalist forces fighting with the British. I'm sure there's a lesson there somewhere – about those ignored by the status quo in the UK and US, who have felt compelled to side with those who don't really have their best interests at heart...

But I digress...

There aren't many plays that go into depth about the American Revolutionary War, especially from the female perspective, but Sillaway's play with a minimum of fuss conveys the horrors at the time, as well as a multilayered commentary on individuals' motives and serving the 'greater good'. Hopefully this play will have another run in the near future.

© Michael Davis 2016

Unanchored runs at Bread and Roses Theatre until Saturday 12th November at 7.30pm

 

Author's review: 
4