Afrocentric Theatre, Music, Culture and Business

Underground Railroad Game (Theatre Review) Underground Railroad Game (Theatre Review)
Underground Railroad Game (Theatre Review)

For those who don’t know the Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and safe houses established in the United States during the early to mid-19th century, and used by African-American slaves to escape into free states and Canada with the aid of abolitionists and allies who were sympathetic to their cause.


The courageousness of these people both black and white is brought vividly to life in Ars Nova latest production. The two American actors in the play Jennifer Kidwell and Scott R Sheppard use the backdrop of a middle school history lesson to retell the Civil War and the horrors and the humiliation that the slaves were subjected to on the cotton plantations that they worked on from dawn till dusk. The audience being asked as well to play the part of Union or Confederate soldiers. professional acrylic nail kit


Harriet Tubman a freed slave who herself ran many missions to free slaves is portrayed on stilts in a huge over the top Victorian retelling her acts of heroism in a scene that inexplicably without rhyme or reason ends in an act of cunnilingus!


This was just one of the many scenes in a play which seemed no more than two ‘doggers’ revelling in simulating acts of sex and masturbation on stage in front of a bemused and shocked audience. It was difficult to garner any relevance to what many scenes had to do with slavery, the  ingenuity of the custodians of the underground railroad or anything about plantation life at all. The subplots being lost in a sea of pointless titillation.


The play is full of odious stereotypes about slavery, the black experience and the prolific and unnecessary use of the N-word that would horrify any right thinking member of the Black community or anyone right thinking person come to that.


I for one would not recommend this play and felt offended by its content and many of its cultural overtones. Those reviewers who have described the play as ‘shockingly funny’ or ‘very imaginative’ are either living on another planet or have no real knowledge of the black experience or the depth of hurt slavery has left on the black psyche.


In conclusion the play was an unhealthy mix of absurd, eccentric and bad comedy, gratuitous sex, wild distortions of African American history of which I have found extremely disrespectful and insulting to our ancestors.


Tayo Idowu, Editor, Ebonyonline.net


Underground Railroad Game, September 4 – September 29 8pm, Soho Theatre, W1D 3NE £10


  • George Werther

    February 8, 2019 #1 Author

    We just saw this play staged in Melbourne Australia with the the original cast. As elsewhere it garnered rave reviews all round. We are theatre people with a strong sense of social awareness and strong links to the US, having lived and worked there.
    In our eyes it failed both as a piece of theatre and as a meaningful commentary on issues of race. As you describe, it relies on spurious and mostly irrelevant shock value and sexual displays that were already tiresome in the 1970s. The writing was uninspired. It reminded us of undergraduate review material from our university days.
    The notion of humiliation and sexual revenge for past sins is not only unsophisticated and facile, but, as you also indicate, insulting to African Americans and their history and dignity.
    Sadly, there is an obsession, perhaps driven by collective guilt, with any and all pieces of art which purport to portray the wrongfullness of the slavery narrative – no matter whether the end product is good or bad. In this case, the latter applies. The story has been told far more meaningfully, respectfully and just as courageously in many other pieces of creative art.


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