Bristol Old Vic premiere ‘The Meaning of Zong’ to be broadcast as BBC radio play this month

Giles Terera’s debut play The Meaning of Zong to be broadcast later this month as part of BBC Lights Up season, in partnership with Bristol Old Vic and Jonx Productions.

As the UK approaches the anniversary of theatre closures due to lockdown, Bristol Old Vic partners with the BBC Lights Up season celebrating British Theatre and new writing, with a radio broadcast of Olivier Award-winner Giles Terera’s debut play, The Meaning of Zong. 

Originally developed by Bristol Old Vic and the National Theatre, it was first presented as a rehearsed reading by Bristol Old Vic in 2018. The Meaning of Zong tells of the massacre aboard the slave ship Zong in 1781 where more than 130 enslaved Africans lost their lives. Olaudah Equiano, a freedman, brought news of the massacre to the attention of the anti-slavery campaigner Granville Sharp. Reports of the massacre and subsequent court case received increased publicity, and galvanised the abolition movement in the  UK.

This new audio version of the play will be  broadcast on BBC Radio3 on 21 Mar at 7.30pm before being available on BBC Sounds. Hamilton actor Giles Terera will star as Olaudah Equiano, alongside Samuel West as Granville Sharpe. The cast also includes Akiya Henry, Moronkẹ Akinola, Gloria Obianyo, Michael Balogun, Nikesh Patel, Sule Rimi, Michael Bertenshaw and Paul Hickey.

On 31 Mar, Bristol Old Vic will also host a free Q&A event for audience, cast and creative team to join together to explore further the difficult issues raised by the play. Details of this will be announced next week.

Further Information
The Meaning of Zong is a collaboration between Bristol Old Vic and Jonx Productions. It forms part of BBC Lights Up – ‘lighting up’ stages and studios across the UK by supporting hard-hit organisations and artists, and ensuring audiences at home continue to have the opportunity to enjoy theatre across BBC platforms.

Other plays included in the Lights Up season include Stripe By Stripe And Other Stories from National Theatre Wales; Braids from Live Theatre, Newcastle; Dedication from Nuffield Theatre, Southampton; Welcome To Iran from National Theatre Stratford East; Folk from Hampstead Theatre.

  • Lights Up continues Culture in Quarantine, and sees BBC Arts come together with theatres across the UK in an unprecedented celebration of British theatre, bringing eighteen newly-recorded staged productions to audiences across television, radio, iPlayer and BBC Sounds, as we approach the anniversary of theatre closures due to lockdown.


BBCRadio 3 and BBC Sounds
Sunday 21 March, 7.30pm
Olivier Award- winning actor Giles Terera stars alongside Samuel West in his own debut play about the notorious massacre aboard the slave ship Zong in 1781, and how uncovering its story galvanised the growing Abolition movement in the UK.
A collaboration between Bristol Old Vic and Jonx Productions.

More details here:
Duration: 1hr 30min
Age 12+

About Author /

Kath is an actor, singer and writer with a passion for theatre. She has been reviewing for At The Theatre since 2014. Kath has a Masters in Performance at Liverpool Hope University and is Creative Engagement Worker for B arts, a participatory arts organisation.

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