Paterson Joseph tells Giles Woodforde about his impressive one-man show Sancho: An Act of Remembrance ***
...forced to work as a slave in 18th-century Greenwich,
Ignatius Sancho was the first black African known to have voted in a
He went on to become butler to the prestigious Montagu family, then
owned a grocery shop in Westminster. Alongside this, he blossomed into a
prolific correspondent, composed music, and acted on the stage. All of
which has provided a great deal of material for actor/writer Paterson
Joseph’s one-man show Sancho: An Act of Remembrance.
The show was first staged at Oxford’s Burton Taylor Studio four years
ago, but has now been extensively rewritten. The new version had its
world premiere on the main Oxford Playhouse stage before touring the United States.
Sitting surrounded by pages of the new script in a rehearsal studio in London, I ask Paterson how he first discovered Sancho.
“I was desperate to do a costume drama,” he reveals.
“As a black actor, it’s difficult to get costume drama work. So I
thought: ‘I’ll write, or find, a character, then they’ll have to put me
in it because I’m starring as the person concerned, and I wrote the show
as well’. That’s the very shallow truth.
“So I started researching, and discovered a great book by Gretchen Gerzina called Black England.
“The book was a mine of knowledge, and it had a strange picture in it:
a line drawing of a very dignified-looking black man, taken from a 1768
painting by Thomas Gainsborough. And that’s how I found Sancho.”
In the play, Sancho frequently displays a very self-deprecating sense
of humour, and I quickly sense it’s a characteristic shared by Paterson