Marys Seacole ★★★★ Donmar Warehouse | Apr 15 - Jun 4, 2022


Born in Jamaica in 1805, Mary Seacole faced a life of barriers and challenges. However, despite encountering racial prejudice and misogyny, she became the author of her own journey. She travelled to America, settled in Britain and eventually went to the Crimean War where she nursed British soldiers. Her memoir Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands presents a picture of determination, fortitude, and caring which has only recently been publicly recognised. In Jackie Sibblies Drury's play, Marys Seacole, the historic figure becomes emblematic of all women of colour who have entered a career in caring. The complex realities of professional caring in a modern context are interwoven with the historical Mary's personal story. As we explore the tangled psychological realities that motivated and haunted her, we confront the cost and compromises that beset her successors in their vocation and profession. Kayla Meikle does an extraordinary job as Mary and her incarnations. She seamlessly flows into and out of her various personae. Déja J. Bowens, Esther Smith, Olivia Williams and Susan Wooldridge also simply astonish with their versatility and capacity to create and convey different characters in the blink of an eye. Llewella Gideon is suitably terrifying as Duppy Mary who simultaneously motivates and terrorises her child. Director, Nadia Latif, has ensured that interest never flags during the longish single act of the play, and the creative team has done a superlative job of mounting the production. This is an interestingly layered work that introduces the audience to a complicated and engaging historical character while exploring her legacy in the questions raised by the role assigned to women, and particularly women of colour, in the sphere of caring.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Marc Brenner.

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