Two after-show panels featuring contributions from INQUEST and families of people who have died in custody at further performances of As the Mother of a Brown Boy… in 2009: the first took place on 7 May at the Bernie Grant Centre in north London; while another is scheduled for 21 May at The Drum Theatre in Birmingham.
More details can also be found on the Chickenshed website. Highly successful benefit theatrical performance for INQUEST
A benefit performance of the Chickenshed Theatre Company‘s critically-acclaimed production As the Mother of a Brown Boy.. took place on Thursday 5 June 2008 at Toynbee Hall in east London. The show is inspired by the life of Mischa Niering who died tragically following a police pursuit in 2005 and takes the audience on a stark journey to find the truth behind an individual’s life and death. It is a moving, powerful piece using dance, physical theatre, live music and multimedia to present an extraordinary story of injustice, identity and love.
As the Mother of a Brown Boy… powerfully conveys the devastation wreaked by deaths in custody and INQUEST is proud to have collaborated with Chickenshed in bringing this important issue to the widest possible audience. 50% of the ticket price from the benefit was donated directly towards INQUEST’s work .
In the story, a mother remembers the life, and untimely death, of her mixed race son and his struggle for identity in a multiracial society. The way in which the cast depict Mischa’s childhood, hopes and dreams, as well as his alienation from society and ultimately the horror of his death and his mother’s anguish is phenomenal. The lighting, use of multimedia, live music and dance is overwhelmingly effective in portraying the incident in which Mischa died, the inquest and the devastation wreaked on his loved ones. The impact on the audience was visibly emotional, with many brought to tears by the unfolding tragedy onstage.
As the Mother of a Brown Boy was shortlisted for “Best original work by a collective/ensemble” in the 2007 Total Theatre Awards and for the “Freedom of Expression Award” by Amnesty International at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2007.
Left to right: Deborah Coles; Karen Niering; Raphael Rowe
The performance was followed by a panel discussion to a packed auditorium chaired by INQUEST Co-Director Deborah Coles alongside Mischa’s mother Karen Niering; Imtiaz Amin, uncle of Zahid Mubarek who was murdered by his racist cellmate in Feltham Young Offender Institution; and journalist Raphael Rowe who served 10 years in prison before his wrongful conviction was overturned ater a long campaign. We were also honoured to have Linton Kwesi Johnson read three of his intensely powerful poems at the discussion’s conclusion, including his 1998 piece “Licence Fi Kill” on the subject of deaths in custody.
INQUEST was delighted to see so many of the families and leading human rights lawyers we have worked with over the years at both the performance and the panel discussion, where the hall heard moving testimony from several of those who have lost loved ones. Contributors from the floor included Rupert and Sheila Sylvester, parents of Roger Sylvester who died after being restrained by eight police officers in 1999; Gwen Calvert, whose son Paul died in shocking circumstances in Pentonville prison; Kerry Tester, whose son Max died following a fall after being stopped and chased by police officers; Novlette Williams, mother of Dennis Williams, who died in HMP Bedford in 2004.
Linton Kwesi Johnson, Rupert Sylvester, Novlette Williams
As Sarah Wilson, Marketing Manager at Chickenshed said, “the evening was truly inspirational”, while Mischa’s aunt Christine Niering, who is Dance Director for the company, said that she and the cast “were humbled by the entire experience; it was undoubtedly the most important night of the tour”.
INQUEST ‘s staff and volunteers are proud to have collaborated with the cast and company at Chickenshed on a powerfully effective and moving event which communicated the harrowing effects of deaths in custody in a way which made them emotionally immediate .
Martyn Holland, Development Manager at Chickenshed, wrote to INQUEST after the benefit, saying:
From our part it was a genuine privilege to be able to welcome so many
of those who you have helped through the traumatic times that they have
faced. From those who I managed to speak to it seemed they had truly
benefited from seeing the show and being able to come together with so
many like-minded people, many of whom shared similar experiences.
… It is fantastic to use our work in this way, to galvanise and support the movement towards genuine change in society. To my mind that is when art truly works.
Evenings of such stimulation, emotion, passion and compassion are all
Chickenshed is an exceptional theatre company which has been providing pioneering opportunities for young people of all ages and backgrounds to participate in inclusive theatre activities for more than 30 years. It is a unique organisation that exists to open minds and empower individuals by encouraging them to see the creative potential and ability both in themselves and in each other, on and off the stage.
|More about previous performances of As The Mother of a Brown Boy…|
|See a video clip of As the Mother of a Brown Boy… in performance.|
|Watch another video of As the Mother of a Brown Boy… on stage.|
|“It’s not always easy to tell who’s a hero” – article and review in The Guardian|
|“Universally relevant” – The Observer|
|The June 2008 event would not have been possible without the generous sponsorship of Doughty Street Chambers|