Theatre group tells the story of Englishman part of slave abolition

Bucks Free Press: Theatre group tells the story of Englishman part of slave abolition Theatre group tells the story of Englishman part of slave abolition

A THEATRE company is telling the story of the author of the famous hymn, Amazing Grace.

Many people know the music of John Newton but not as many know his story, which is where The Saltmine Theatre Company step in.

They are coming to The Elgiva in Chesham next month to act out the story of the famous Christian who was part of the abolition of slavery.

I asked director Thomas Firth what the audience can expect from the show called John Newton- Amazing Grace.

He said: "I think they can expect the story of Newton told in a contemporary manner.

"There is folk music, sea shanties. It is a lot of fun. "It is very dramatic- you will be on the edge of your seat- especially in the first act."

The start of the play sees his stories at sea and how he was press ganged into the navy, before he tried to jump ship and then ends up on a slave ship.

The second half focuses more on his life going into the church and his relationship with his wife, Mary.

It was in 1788 that Newton wrote a forceful pamphlet called "Thoughts Upon the Slave Trade", in which he described the horrific conditions of slave ships.

He became an ally of his friend William Wilberforce, leader of the Parliamentary campaign to abolish the slave trade and lived to see the passage of the Slave Trade Act 1807.

Tom, 29, said: "I think we always put a lot of thought into what show we are going to do and what would be the next big tour.

"I think in the film, Amazing Grace, it focuses mainly on Wilberforce and the Abolition Bill he wanted to get through Parliament.

"Newton is featured for the briefest moment. He doesn't really feature.

"Ours is more about Newton's story- we didn't feel the film told the incredible story of Newton."

The script uses narration a lot with Newton looking back at his own life.

There is a cast of five, who are musicians and singers, as well as actors. Tom plays some of the smaller roles himself.

He said: "I am loving being in it. I think, because we work as an ensemble when I am acting in a scene the other members of the company are able to direct me and give me feedback."

Tom, who is originally from Cheshire, has worked with the Saltmine Theatre Company for four years. He was made Creative Lead in September.

He graduated from Bretton Hall in 2007 after studying acting. He has his own theatre company called Mr and Mrs. Saltmine worked in collaboration with Stop The Traffik, an anti trafficking organisation, on a project called Love Struck.

Tom said there are more slaves in the world now, than when Wilberforce and Newton pushed the bill through to abolish the slave trade.

He said: "Although it is a story which is 200 years old its message is just as relevant today as it was then.

"There are still people being trafficked- it is more underhand and more underground. "Human trafficking is still rife."

Part of registered charity Saltmine Trust, Saltmine Theatre Company is a professional theatre company with a Christian ethos performing in Schools, Churches and mainstream theatres in the UK and Northern Ireland.

Tom said: "We are Christian in our belief. We are faith motivated artists. "We do work that does tell stories of good and maybe famous Christians like Newton."

John Newton-Amazing Grace will be performed at The Elgiva Theatre in Chesham as part of its premiere tour on Monday, February 10 at 7.30pm.

The performance is suitable for everyone aged 12 and over. Tickets are £10 (Concessions, Groups of 10 or more £9) from 01494 582900 or go to www.elgiva.com

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