Tragic story comes to life

THIS is a tragic tale of a misunderstood man who immigrated to England from Nigeria in 1949 full of hopes and dreams but whose spirit was left in tatters.

Naomi Cassidy

THIS is a tragic tale of a misunderstood man who immigrated to England from Nigeria in 1949 full of hopes and dreams but whose spirit was left in tatters.

His gradual demise due to the racism he encountered and the constant hounding by the local police, culminated in his lifeless body being dragged out of a dirty river in Leeds 20 years later.

Adapted for the stage by Oladipo Agboluaje from the book by Kester Aspden, the show has already received national acclaim since embarking on a tour across the country.

The play starts with David's body being found in the River Aire on May 4 1969 and what follows is an internal police inquiry to investigate the brutality he was subjected to at the hands of officers of the law.

The tale is harrowing enough but the fact that it is true makes it all the more poignant, as it is a depressing comment on the world in which we live whereby people are judged by their circumstances and authorities can harbour crippling secrets.

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The central figure in the play was of course the eponymous David Oluwale, and Daniel Francis performed the role with such talent and gusto that he lit up the stage whenever he appeared.

To see him transform from his jive-dancing lively persona in the beginning to the crushed broken man seen towards the end was nothing short of brilliant.

The speech by the alderman at the end is significant and heavy with irony, claiming that the streets of Leeds had been cleaned up and are now “as lily white as a Leeds United shirt”.

Agboluaje stated the objective of the screenplay was “to exhume David Oluwale and give him a fitting memorial”. Hopefully the more people that see this around the country, such an aim will be achieved and the story will linger in their memories long after the final curtain is drawn.

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