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14 July 2021

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Theatre review

Farewell Leicester Square - the story of Britain's first black bus driver

Farewell Leicester Square

Farewell Leicester Square   (Click to enlarge)

Mary Finch, Waltham Forest Socialist Party

Farewell Leicester Square tells the story of Joe Clough - Britain's first black bus driver. It opens in Jamaica, where Joe was born and began his career as a driver working on horse-drawn carriages.

The upbeat tone of the play is set immediately as we follow Joe's mischievous childhood in Jamaica. His job led him to England when his posh employer, Dr White, moved there in 1903. Dr White does his best to prepare Joe for the cold weather and cobbly roads, but there is an endearing culture shock on his arrival in England.

He immediately falls head over heels when he meets his lively future wife, Margaret, at a public house in London. Phillip Olagoke, the play's only actor, seamlessly transitions between all three characters.

Joe was not only accepted but was enormously popular in the local working class community in Bedford. He was sacked from driving the Number 11 bus on spurious charges, motivated by racism from the bosses. But the other bus drivers rallied around him to get him reinstated.

Unable to fight as an active serviceman in World War One, Joe instead signed up to drive ambulances. This section of his life probably only takes up 15 minutes in the hour-long play, but it's profound and deeply affecting. A badly injured soldier in Joe's ambulance reaches out to touch his skin for 'good luck', and Joe reaches back and holds his face in an attempt to lift his spirits.

Joe's racial identity and experiences of racism are an important part of his story, but he isn't defined by them. His incredible life, vibrant personality, and the joy he found in driving shine through in the writing and a fantastic lead performance.

Farewell Leicester Square is funny, at times very sad, thoroughly enjoyable and well worth seeing.

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In The Socialist 14 July 2021:


NHS

NHS: Kick out the privatisers - Fight for a 15% Pay rise

Scrap the privatising health and care bill

Tories threaten to axe free prescriptions for older workers


Covid

We cannot trust this government over Covid: Fight for a new workers' party

Trade unions must continue the fight for Covid safety


LGBTQ+

Pride is protest - Build a mass movement for LGBTQ+ liberation and socialism

LGBTQ+ workers' charter


Workplace news

Dagenham school workers strike against 'fire and rehire' pay cuts

St Mungo's strikers end 12-week strike

Telecoms workers angry at CWU deal with BT

GKN Birmingham workers rally against plant closure

Brush workers into eighth week of strike

Workplace round-up


International

New wave of radicalisation in Latin America

Putting the Olympic gravy train ahead of public health

Kazakhstan: Solidarity with protesters attacked by regime forces


News

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Defend the triple lock - Fight to end poverty pensions

Wealth chasm widens

Right-wing study concludes youth like socialism


Campaigns

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We need councillors who will end housing crisis - vote TUSC in Staines on 22 July

Stop Pimlico gentrification

Why I joined the Socialist Party

Everyone can spot Socialist Party in Stoke

Socialist Party meetings say: We're ready to go out and campaign


Readers' opinion

England football team

Farewell Leicester Square - the story of Britain's first black bus driver

Readers' comments


 

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