Freeman Strictly Arts at the Belgrade Theatre

REVIEW | Freeman | UK Tour

Freeman is a brilliantly bold and utterly remarkable piece of fringe theatre that takes a defiant look at institutionalised racism. Strictly Arts use physical theatre to tell true stories and prove how far we really haven’t come since the first man in America to plead Insanity in his defence.

Award-winning writer Camilla Whitehall has crafted a superb production that captures the huge issue of systemic racism through spoken word, physical theatre, music, shadow puppetry and more. Combining these theatrical elements, she tells the story of history constantly repeating itself. In 2016 when the company began to develop Freeman, there were 120 self-inflicted deaths recorded in UK prisons, the highest number on record.

The program states “Last year there were 31,328 people in UK prisons who had reported experiences of mental health issues, however only 7,917 people received NHS treatment. The risk of poor mental health is rising across the UK for people of all backgrounds, but that threat is three to five times greater for those in Afro-Caribbean communities.”

Based on William Freeman’s story, a man who was wrongly accused because of racial profiling back in the 1800s, with five other stories running all the way up to modern day weaved around it, it’s a truly affecting piece of theatre. The precision and conviction of the acting is faultless, as their emotionally charged performances bring a real authenticity to the show as they convey their isolation and fear.

It’s harrowing theatre but performed with such honesty as the cast depict the systemic prejudice through these human stories. These six stories of injustice are just a mere few on a huge scale of incidents that happen across the world every single day. Bringing to the forefront the shocking reality of racism, with an emphasis on the unspoken link between mental health and racism.

Freeman is a story that needs to be put on stage because it’s real life, and it’s happening today. This thought-provoking performance packs a powerful punch in an entirely expressive way.


Currently at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry until the 8th of September, Freeman continues on tour across the UK.

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