Giles Terera’s The Meaning of Zong to premiere at Bristol Old Vic

Giles Terera’s The Meaning of Zong will hold its theatrical premiere at Bristol Old Vic this autumn.

Jointly commissioned and developed by Bristol Old Vic and The National Theatre, The Meaning of Zong was previously presented in a rehearsed reading in 2018 and on Radio 3 in March of this year.

Written by and starring Giles Terera, it’s long-awaited theatrical premiere will take place at Bristol Old Vic running 11 September to 2 October.

Two hundred years ago, Olaudah Equiano changed the world. Reading reports of a massacre aboard the slave ship Zong, where 132 enslaved Africans were thrown overboard, he joins forces with anti-slavery campaigner Granville Sharp to publicly condemn these abhorrent actions, setting in motion events which would go on to galvanise the abolition movement in the UK.

But Olaudah’s impassioned fight for justice goes beyond the courtroom. Having bought his own freedom, he now faces a personal battle to rediscover his past and accept his true self.

Weaving together the many lives affected by these events across the globe, Giles Terera’s boldly inventive debut play The Meaning of Zong is a timely response to the social upheaval the world has witnessed in recent years. Performed by an ensemble cast and punctuated with stirring music, it celebrates the power of individual action to drive huge societal change.

Giles Terera said: “When I first started exploring this story, I felt very strongly that there was a connection between today and the 18th century when these events took place. History isn’t just history, it’s a continual conversation with the present. It’s a play about us, now.

“At this moment, there is lot of discontentment, but at the same time there are a lot of people standing up for people who don’t look like them or live like them. This play focusses on that – as an individual what is your obligation to your society and community? What are you prepared to stand up for? What are you prepared to defend?”

The Meaning of Zong forms part of Bristol Old Vic’s newly announced season for autumn and winter 2021/2022.

Other shows will be Emma Rice’s Wuthering Heights (9 October – 6 November), co-produced with The National Theatre, Wise Children, Bristol Old Vic and York Theatre Royal; and Ross Willis play Wonder Boy (5 – 26 March 2022), directed by Sally Cookson.

Mark Rylance will make his Bristol Old Vic debut in the world premiere of Dr Semmelweis (20 January – 12 February 2022) – a Bristol Old Vic production in association with Sonia Friedman Productions, The National Theatre and Shakespeare Road – while The Wardrobe Ensemble will present Robin Hood: Legend of the Forgotten Forest this Christmas (25 November 2021 – 9 January 2022), co-produced with Bristol Old Vic.

More information and tickets are available from Where possible, shows will be live streamed.

About the author: Rachel Wise

UK based freelancer journalist Rachel contributes regularly to Stageberry with features and interviews from the hottest new shows and stage stars.