The title of the Donmar’s new effort, Marys Seacole, appears to be a misprint and that makes the reader look twice. Good marketing. The show is a blend of Spike Milligan-esque sketches and indignant speeches about race but it starts as a straightforward historical narrative. Mary Seacole enters in Victorian garb and introduces herself as a woman of half-Scots and half-Caribbean heritage who believes that ethnic differences create hierarchies of competence. Her veins, she says, flow with ‘Scotch blood’ and this gives her an entrepreneurial advantage over her ‘indolent’ Caribbean neighbours. Inflammatory stuff. If a white author embraced that supremacist creed, there’d be outrage.
After the history lesson, the scene switches to a modern London hospital where an old dear lies in intensive care surrounded by family members.