THE MEANING OF ZONG, Giles Terera's Debut Play, Comes To The Barbican in 2023

Performances run Thu 20–Sun 23 Apr 2023.

By: Oct. 26, 2022

THE MEANING OF ZONG, Giles Terera's Debut Play, Comes To The Barbican in 2023

The Meaning of Zong is the boldly inventive debut play by Giles Terera whose performance in the original run at Bristol Old Vic won him the 2022 UK Theatre Award for Best Performance in a Play. The Meaning of Zong celebrates the power of the human spirit against adversity, and the journey to understand our place in the world.

Two hundred years ago, Olaudah Equiano read the harrowing reports of a massacre aboard the slave ship Zong, where 132 Africans were thrown overboard. Joining forces with anti-slavery campaigner Granville Sharp to publicly condemn these actions, he helped set in motion events which led to the abolition movement in the UK.

But Olaudah's mission goes beyond the courtroom. Having bought his own freedom, he now faces a personal battle to rediscover his past and accept his true self.

'240 years ago this extraordinary true story began in the city of London. It is fitting that we are able to bring this story right back to the heart of Britain's financial capital to hold to account, to heal and to move forwards.' Giles Terera

Based on real life historical events, this highly acclaimed play is performed by an ensemble cast including writer and Olivier Award-winner Giles Terera (Hamilton) and co-directed by Tom Morris (Touching the Void, War Horse). The Meaning of Zong serves as inspiration for how individual and collective action can drive unimaginable change.

Giles Terera MBE is an award-winning actor, musician and writer. He trained at Mountview Theatre School and has worked consistently at venues such as The National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company and Shakespeare's Globe. He is best known for originating the role of Aaron Burr in the London production of the award-winning musical Hamilton, for which he won the 2018 Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical. He is currently appearing in Blues for an Alabama Sky National Theatre where he will also be taking on the role of Othello in November.

His other theatre credits include Rosmersholm, The Tempest, Avenue Q, The Book of Mormon, 125th Street, Rent (West End); Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Hamlet, Death and the King's Horseman, The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other, Troilus and Cressida, Candide, Honk! (National Theatre); The Merchant of Venice (Shakespeare's Globe/international tour); The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (Donmar Warehouse); Pure Imagination - The Songs of Lesley Bricusse (St. James's); King John (Shakespeare's Globe/UK tour); Don't You Leave Me Here (West Yorkshire Playhouse); The Playboy of the Western World (Abbey, Dublin); The Ratpack (West End/international tour); Jailhouse Rock (Theatre Royal Plymouth/West End); You Don't Kiss (Stratford Circus); Up on the Roof (Chichester); The Tempest (RSC); Six Degrees of Separation (Sheffield); Generations of the Dead (Young Vic); Bill Shakespeare's Italian Job (Playbox, Warwick/Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh); The Demon Headmaster/The Animals of Farthing Wood (Pleasance, Edinburgh).

As a writer, his theatre work includes: The Ballad of Soho Jones (St. James') and Black Matter (Crazy Coqs). As a filmmaker, Giles's first documentary, Muse of Fire - created with Dan Poole - centres on modern perspectives of Shakespeare and premiered on BBC Four in Autumn 2013. Giles was an associate producer on Poole's feature documentary The Space: Theatre of Survival and he wrote and directed the concert film Hello Harry! A Celebration.

Tom Morris was Artistic Director of Bristol Old Vic from 2009 -2022 and has been Associate Director of The National Theatre since 2004. He was the Artistic Director of BAC from 1995 to 2004 and has worked widely as a journalist, broadcaster and freelance writer, producer and director. At Bristol Old Vic he has directed many shows including Touching the Void and The Grinning Man (both Bristol and West End); Swallows & Amazons (Bristol, West End and UK tour); Juliet and Her Romeo, The Crucible, King Lear, Handel's Messiah, and A Midsummer Night's Dream (with Handspring Puppets), Dr Semmelweis. Tom also adapted A Christmas Carol for Bristol Old Vic in 2018, co-wrote the lyrics for The Grinning Man, and adapted A Matter of Life and Death with Emma Rice for The National Theatre. For Kneehigh, he wrote Nights at the Circus and The Wooden Frock with Emma Rice. For BAC he wrote Ben Hur, Jason and the Argonauts and World Cup Final 1966, all with Carl Heap. Other directing credits include: Breaking the Waves (Scottish Opera/ Opera Ventures with Edinburgh International Festival); The Death of Klinghoffer (ENO & Metropolitan Opera); Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (National Theatre); War Horse (as co-director for National Theatre; 2011 Tony Award for Best Director);Disembodied, Newsnight: The Opera, Home, Passions, Unsung, Othello Music, Trio, All That Fall, all for BAC, where he also produced Jerry Springer: The Opera, BAC Opera, British Festival of Visual Theatre, Sam Shepard Festival. Tom was founding Chair of the JMK Trust, has served on the boards of Complicite & Punchdrunk, has honorary doctorates from UWE and Bristol University, and an OBE for services to Theatre.

Bristol Old Vic is the oldest running theatre in the UK, and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2016. The historic playhouse aims to inspire audiences with its own original productions, both at home and on tour, whilst nurturing the next generation of artists, whether that be through their 350-strong Young Company, their many outreach and education projects or their trailblazing artist development programme, Bristol Ferment. They use their funding to support experiment and innovation, to allow access to their programme for people who would not otherwise encounter it, or be able to afford it, and to keep their extraordinary heritage alive and animated.

On 24 Sep 2018, Bristol Old Vic completed its 2-year multi-million pound redevelopment project, which transformed its front of house space into a warm and welcoming public building for all of Bristol to enjoy, created a new studio theatre and opened up its unique theatrical heritage to the public for the first time.