REVIEW: HENRY BOX BROWN (Gilded Balloon) ★★★★

Henry Box Brown tells the story of a slave from Virginia who was put in a box and posted to his freedom in Philadelphia in 1849. Henry survived to tell his tale, write his autobiography and became an anti-slavery campaigner. His story is told with a mix of Gospel, R&B and spirituals by a cast larger than many seen at the Fringe; the 16-strong cast from New York are directed by Tony Award winner Ben Harney and written by award winner Mehr Mansuri. The show returns to Edinburgh after a successful run in 2018.

We meet Henry as a free man looking back on his childhood, living with his parents and siblings until the family is broken apart by the death of their slave owner. The parting of a mother from her youngest son is heartbreaking but this is just the beginning of Henry’s tragedies. He is later separated from his wife and children when they are sold by their owner to another family. It is this that leads to Henry seeking out friends and sympathisers to help with his plan to escape and become a free man.

The talented cast play many roles to bring Henry’s story to life helped by emotional and powerful musical numbers including a live drummer on stage for much of the show.

The show feels bigger than the theatre space it’s performed in and I hope it will make a move beyond the Fringe to reach a wider audience. This is a story that deserves to be heard.

Reviewed by Rhiannon Evans

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