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Collective Artistes

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.