Wed 1st – Mon 27th Aug 2018


“Freeman is the recipient of this year’s The Charlie Hartill Special Reserve Fund”





Pleasance Theatre


Inspired by the first American to plead insanity as his defence, award-winning writer Camilla Whitehill and Strictly Arts examine the unspoken link between mental health and systemic racism. Freeman is the recipient of this year’s The Charlie Hartill Special Reserve Fund and Strictly Arts are the first black-led company, and the first company from the West Midlands, to receive the Special Reserve.

Throughout time and across oceans, this thought-provoking production threads together the true stories of William Freeman, David Oluwale, Sarah Reed, Sandra Bland, Daniel M'naghten and Michael Bailey. 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.

When Strictly Arts began making Freeman in 2016, there were 120 self-inflicted deaths recorded in prisons across the UK - the highest number on record. The company began looking at the parallels between today’s society and past incidents. Government statistics in 2017 showed that there were 31,328 people in prison who, at any one time in the UK, had reported having poor mental health issues - 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.

Artistic Director of Strictly Arts, Corey Campbell, comments 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.

History is bound to repeat itself when the thumb is permanently bearing down on the loop button, so has anything really changed? Freeman features a mix of high-energy physical theatre, gospel singing, shadow puppetry and powerful drama to evoke an extraordinarily moving experience.

…the play capitalises on the company's impressive versatility, juxtaposing monologue with physical theatre, gospel singing with shadow puppetry and a searing rage against injustice with a winning sense of humour… (What’s On Live).

Each year, The Charlie Hartill Special Reserve Fund provides a young theatre company with the rare and extraordinary opportunity to present a ground-breaking performance of a fully produced play at the Edinburgh Fringe. This is a fantastic opportunity for a team to be creative, innovative, imaginative and entrepreneurial in a big and exciting way. 2017 recipients of the Reserve, Unpolished Theatre won a Fringe First with their incredible production Flesh and Bone which has since played in Australia and will be transferring to Soho Theatre this summer.

The Edinburgh run will be followed by a UK tour including a stop at Pleasance London from 16th – 21st October.

Admission: £8(£7)

Pleasance Courtyard (Above)

City map


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