Strictly Arts revive Freeman for the Edinburgh Fringe & UK tour

Posted on 20 July 2018

Following the success of last year’s debut tour with multiple sell-out performances, Strictly Arts will revive their critically acclaimed show Freeman in 2018, thanks to support from the Charlie Hartill Special Reserve Fund. This summer, the Belgrade Springboard Company will make their Edinburgh Fringe debut, ahead of a welcome return to the Belgrade and second tour in the autumn.

Created in collaboration with award-winning writer Camilla Whitehill (Where Do Little Birds Go? / Mr Incredible), Freeman explores the often unspoken link between systemic racism and mental health, inspired by the first American to plead insanity as a legal defence.

Throughout time and across waters, the show weaves the story of William Freeman, a black man driven to violence in the US, together with those of David Oluwale, Sarah Reed, Sandra Bland, Daniel M’naghten and Michael Bailey, showing the connection between these two factors both in the US and here in the UK. The controversial lives and deaths of these real-life protagonists also highlight why it is necessary for movements like Black Lives Matter to exist in the 21st Century.

Developed in partnership with the Belgrade through our Springboard talent development programme, the show’s revival has been funded with support from the Charlie Hartill Special Reserve Fund, awarded through The Pleasance via its Pleasance Futures programme. Strictly Arts are both the first black-led company and the first company from the West Midlands to receive the fund.


Combining high-energy physical theatre, powerful drama, gospel singing, shadow puppetry and more, this deeply moving production draws on extensive research into deaths and mental illness amongst prisoners. History is bound to repeat itself when the thumb is permanently bearing down on the loop button, so has anything really changed?

During 2016, when Strictly Arts began making Freeman, 120 self-inflicted deaths were recorded in prisons across the UK – the highest number on record. In 2017, government statistics revealed that 31,328 people in prison had at any one time reported mental health concerns, equating to 37% of the average monthly prison population. Yet only 7,917 prisoners were recorded by NHS England as having received treatment for mental health illness during March 2017.

Strictly Arts Artistic Director Corey Campbell, said: “As an individual who has been a victim of racial profiling, wrongfully accused by the justice system, with friends and family who have suffered from poor mental health, and a member of the black community myself, the statistics and information I’ve researched are both relevant and frightening. To think that William Freeman’s story from as far back as the 1800s can still be an example to us today shows that we are still in dangerous waters.”

Freeman is written by Camilla Whitehill and Strictly Arts and directed by Danièle Sanderson, with lighting by Joe Hornsby and sound by John Roddy. Casting includes Kieren Amos, Pip Barclay, Corey Campbell, Kimisha Lewis, Aimee Powell and Marcel White.

Freeman runs at the Pleasance Courtyard in Edinburgh 1-27 Aug, and returns to the Belgrade 5-8 September, followed by a UK tour. Tickets are available to book now.