“I’m pleased someone from Erdington can be part of this fantastic play, but the important thing about She’s Royal is the hidden history that many people did not know about.”
Erdington poet and spoken word artist Paulette Francis Green (Empress P) is set to stage manage the world première of She’s Royal, launching at the Birmingham Hippodrome’s Patrick Studio on Tuesday 18 October.
Written by Tonia Daley-Campbell and directed by Lorna Laidlaw, who plays series character Aggie Bailey in Coronation Street, She’s Royal explores the stories 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.
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 – with the monarch impressed by her intellect and encouraging her to enter Victorian high society.
Sophia Duleep Singh was the British born third daughter of Maharaja Duleep Singh, who became a key part of the rising Suffragette movement and getting royal consent for the Equal Franchise Act in 1928, enabling women over age 21 to vote on a par with men. Singh would go on to establish the Suffragette Fellowship in 1930.
Paulette Francis Green, who has worked with Birmingham Opera Company and Erdington Arts Forum, told Erdington Local: “I think the story is important because we are made aware that there were people of colour in the household of the monarchy, in this example Queen Victoria.
“Because of what happened in India (colonial rule) she decided that she would have Sophia Duleep Singh as her goddaughter, along with Sarah Forbes Bonette. To me it’s’ a hidden story that needs to be told.
“Also, Queen Victoria’s relationship with Abdul Karim – who was initially one of her servants but became her cook, and we mention that in the play. So, you can see in the household of Queen Victoria she did have people of colour around her and in positions that were close to her.
“There are diaries by Queen Victoria… there is a part in the play that mentions her saying ‘regardless of people’s race, yes I will promote someone who is of colour.’
Throughout the rise and fall of the British Empire, which at its height counted over 412 million people as it’s subjects – 23% of the world’s population at the time, people from countries and dominions across the globe made England their home.
But the impact and presence of people of colour in the UK spans back throughout history, even to the times of the Roman Empire.
“I’m tired and also pleased we’re still having the conversation,” added Paulette. “But what people have to realise is that we (people of colour) didn’t just come to the UK in 1948 on the SS Windrush – we have been here since the Roman times, with Lucias Septimius Severus (Rome’s first African Emperor) who conquered Caledonia.
“There’s been a black presence in the UK going back centuries, just look at John Blanke – one of the key trumpeters Henry VIII’s court. And what is frustrating is that it is history, it is our history, and it should be told – it should be told in schools.
“There are so many things people of colour have contributed to British history, but why don’t people want to talk about it, why don’t people want to accept it. It happened, it happened, it happened…”
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 on the Birmingham Hippodrome visit www.birminghamhippodrome.com
For more on Paulette Francis Green (Empress P) visit www.instagram.com/empressppoet