The Value of Life

Inspired by The African Company Presents Richard III by Carlyle Brown

Opening set: Spotlight centre stage on Shirley and Zack: 

The students are around them, as people in the marketplace, they are frozen.

Shirley: They took my momma, they took my papa. Then they took me.  They say we animals, but we not, we people. The dealer man’s shouting 250, 350,

The students are haggling with each other. One student can be the dealer for Shirley another for Zack.

Each student calls out a number up to 500.

Men in the crowd shouting:

Bilal:  ‘Is that nigger strong?’ 

Sadia: ‘Can it cook?’

Shirley:  It?  Then one man he looks at me and he shout out

Jason :  I want that bitch!

Shirley:  Ain’t I worth more?  Why can’t me say  – Me  ain’t no bitch You’s the bitch –  Look him right in the eye  Me think, me speak , me laugh and me cry just like you..  Why should me be that bitch, ain’t I worth more?

Zack:  Yes you are. Listen to me! Yes, you are worth more .

 Montage of movement to music

Sophie moves forward and accuses the audience

Sophie:   He took it, he took it, he took it

Jason:  Lovely day today. Would be better with some tea and sun

Tanisha: What do you mean sun? It’s always sunny here.

Jason: Silly me, what I meant was SONS!

Tanisha: What do you mean by ‘sons?’

Jason: It’s not my fault you’re infertile. I would like someone to take over the family farm

Tanisha: I am as fertile as the land. I just don’t have time for you

Jason grabs Shirley’s wrist

Montage of movement to music

Bilal moves forward  and accuses the audience

Bilal:    You’re not going to do it, you’re not going to do it, you’re not going to do it. Go on then do it!

Jason pushes Shirley to the ground

Katie:            It was him, it was him, it was him

Shirley gets up and drags herself over to Reene and puts her arm round him.

Everyone begins working, copying the work Reene is doing

Shirley: My baby, you’re always singing, so happy with life…

Reene: Aren’t you momma. It’s such a nice day

Shirley: For you, it is son

Reene sings as he works. Tanisha watches and moves towards him, she pushes Shirley out of the way.

Everyone copies Reene’s movements, from the moment Tanisha walks towards him.

Tanisha: You’re right boy – It is a nice day.

Reene:  Sure is Missus

Tanisha: A nice day for working, so keep working  (she hits him – all the students react as if they have been hit)

Shirley runs to help Reene. Tanisha goes to hit Shirley…Freeze

Phoebe enters the spotlight:

Phoebe: Ladies and Gentlemen, please be upstanding for the President of the United States of America, Mr Abraham Lincoln.

Barnardo: I say take courage—I determine to forget all my other fears, and I march forward with a firmer step in the full assurance that my cause will bear me out.  We are all guilty—we ought all to plead guilty, and not throw the blame on others involved in this wretched business.

For today, everyone, we are ALL finally FREE. 

Crowd cheers:

Barnardo: I say, no more blood on our hands, no more, no more

Crowd cheers:

Barnardo: I say, we shall be a place where you can raise your children and educate them in a society that treats them as equal.

Crowd cheers:

Tanisha moves away from Shirley. Reene stands up and goes from being a child to a man

Mimi & Sadi go to Mert who is sitting in a chair

M&S; Grandad, grandad, tell us that story about how you came to be in America

Mert: Again, child. What do you want to hear that old tale for?

M&S: Please, granddad, tell us, tell us

Reene: I come from cane field.

Actor & Reene:  Don’t got no paper, say I’m a free man. ..

Actor takes over monologue

So this sailorman and this captain, they shakin’ they purse, bitin’ they coin, fixin’ to sell me to the slave dealerman for five hundred dollar.  “Where this nigga come from,” sailorman say.  I don’t want to tell him, I come from cane field boss. 

Captain say, “this nigga don’t want to say where he come from, but he back strong.”  Slave dealerman say, “I don’t care where he come from, long as he don’t go to hell, before I’m through.”  But I cut cane and I know, it’s too dear. 

Black woman draggin’ can and cuttin’, children working in the fields, ‘e too dear. 

On some farms they breed the people like dogs.  They make the men be studs and the women be bitches.  ‘E too dear.  Them steal away ya past and cut ya from ya future.  Make ya blood into a purse to fill with gold and silver.  But ‘e too dear. 

Two hundred dollar, three hundred dollar, three-fifty, three-seventy five, four hundred dollar, five.  ‘E too dear.

      (The following lines should be distributed to the present group)

      So now, Right now

     Today, I am free,

     Today! We are free! We are free!

     To party, To dance, To laugh

     To take what we want

     To have my baby, my child, and be free

     To fight, to kill, to cry 

     To take what we want

      To have what we want

      Now! Right now! I can say  – i  ain’t no bitch.

      I can look you right in the eye

      I think, I speak, ! laugh and I cry just like you

Ola moves forward

Ola: Roll up, roll up and Welcome to the ideal world!

Erdal: I can say life is perfect, but how long will it last – maybe today, maybe tomorrow

Ola: It’s a perfect life. I’ve got everything I want

Elizabeth: A world of peace and harmony

Zlate: It’s a life where nothing goes wrong

Sumaya: Everything evil has its own consequences

Ola: Roll up, roll up and welcome to the ideal world.

Erdal: I am a man in a free world

Elizabeth: A world where everyone is equal

Ola:  Where there is no place for evil

Elizabeth: A place of acceptance, a place of love

Hanan:  (happily telling her boyfriend  – who she imagines is in front of her)  I’m having your baby, I’m having your baby, I’m having your baby

Mahmut: I love, I love you, I love you

Music plays;

Everyone moves towards their partner and moves into an embrace, a handshake or holds their partners hands.


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