She’s Royal opens with its world première today at Birmingham Hippodrome’s Patrick Studio, starting a two day run in Birmingham – before heading to the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre in November.
Evening performances will be held at the Patrick Studio at 7:30pm on both 18 and 19 October, with an additional matinee performance at 1pm on 19 October – click here for full theatre details and links to online ticket sales.
Produced by Blackstory Partnership, the Tonia Daley-Campbell She’s Royal script explores the story of two women of colour who were prominent members of the royal household under Queen Victoria – Sarah Forbes Bonetta and Sophia Duleep Singh, both goddaughters to the monarch.
Directed by Lorna Laidlow – whose acting credits include roles in Emmerdale, Doctors, and most notably series character Aggie Bailey in Coronation Street – the recently penned production has been produced by Blackstory Partnership, as part of Birmingham’s Black History Month.
Delivered by an all female cast, She’s Royal recants the real life stories of two important female figures who were people of colour in British Royal Family history – hoping the play will inspire young women and celebrate the role people of colour have played in British high society.
A child slave in the court of King Ghezo of Dahomey (today southern western Nigeria), Sarah Forbes Bonetta was gifted to Queen Victoria via Captain Forbes – as part of a burgeoning relationship between Britain and the West African province, whilst the Navy Chief was visiting to try and break ties with the Atlantic slave trade.
Schooled in both Britain and Africa, Queen Victoria was impressed by the young Sarah’s intellect and precocity, taking the child under her care and encouraging her to enter Victorian high society. At the request of Queen Victoria, Sarah Forbes Bonetta married the wealthy Yoruba businessman Captain James Pinson Labulo Davies at St Nicholas’ Church, Brighton, in August 1862,
Sophia Duleep Singh was the British born third daughter of Maharaja Duleep Singh, the last Maharaja of the Sikh Empire, and his first wife, Bamba Müller. All the Singh daughters were encouraged to become socialites by Queen Victoria but following a visit to the Deli Durbar in 1903 the young Sophia became disillusioned with the world of pomp and ceremony, instead dedicating her adult life to “the advancement of women.”
Becoming a key part of the rising Suffragette movement, Sophia Duleep Singh would play an integral role in the getting royal consent for the Equal Franchise Act in 1928, enabling women over age 21 to vote on a par with men, and would go on to establish the Suffragette Fellowship in 1930.
The stories of these incredible women ‘form the backbone’ of She’s Royal, a new production ‘held together by their emotional and complex connections to Queen Victoria and the Great British Empire.’
Tonia Daley-Campbell, writer of She’s Royal, said: “There are so many female stories from our shared history, that have not been told, hidden histories of women of colour in particular. As a black female writer, I felt compelled to write this play when Blackstory Partnership approached me.
“When I heard about Sarah I thought, how on earth did I not know that Sarah Forbes Bonetta was walking around 1800s England as a quintessentially English woman, goddaughter to Queen Victoria? For young black girls growing up, I think hearing about these women will make them feel so empowered and seen.”
Lorna Laidlaw, Director of She’s Royal, added; “It’s been an amazing experience. The whole journey has been incredible for them and will make the play even better. We’ve got someone in the cast who is a Nurse so one minute she’s in the operating theatre and the next she’s at rehearsals! It’s such an interesting story and they’ve learned so much from it and the process.
“There are so many hidden histories like Sarah and Sophia’s, and what I would love to see is that we all support each other telling them, whatever your gender or the colour of your skin. I’d like the audience to be a big mixture of people because once we all hear these stories we start sharing them and that’s what’s important.”
She’s Royal opens with its world première at Birmingham Hippodrome’s Patrick Studio on Tuesday 18 October, with a performance at 7:30pm. There will also be performances of She’s Royal on Wednesday 19 October at both 1pm and 7:30pm.
Tickets start from £15 by calling the box office on 0844 338 5000 or online via: www.birminghamhippodrome.com/calendar/shes-royal
She’s Royal will also be performed at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre on Tuesday 1 November at 2.30pm and 7.30pm.
She’s Royal – official trailer
She’s Royal is an original production from Blackstory Partnership. For more on Blackstory Partnership visit www.blackstorypartnership.com
For more from the BImringham Hippodrome visit www.birminghamhippodrome.com