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Criterion Theatre
The Gift (2022)
Written by Janice Okoh
Sat 29th January to Sat 5th February

An outrageous play about imperialism, cross-racial adoption, cultural appropriation – and tea.

Director – Chris Ingall
Sarah Bonetta – Nicola Brome
Sarah Cheshire – Nyasha Daley
James – Maxveal Mclaren
Aggie – Bernadette Baretto
Harriet Waller – Lilian McGrath
Reverend Venn – Andrew Tyrer
Mrs Schoen – Emma Whewell
Harriet – Anne-marie Greene
Ben – Rob Lord
Queen Victoria – Emma Whewell
Artwork Design – Laura Dean
Stage Manager – Frances Dixon
Props i/c – Sally Patalong
The Play

The gift of the title is a young black African girl rescued from native captors, brought to England and given to Queen Victoria. The Queen adopts her and names her Sarah, who is raised as the ward of a series of trusted guardians within royal circles. We meet Sarah at her Brighton home in 1862, on the eve of her departure for Africa with her businessman husband James. She is expecting a visit from her guardian Mrs Schoen, who brings unexpected and undesirable guests to tea.

In the present day, a middle class black British couple, Sarah an engineer and James an antique dealer, have recently moved to a Cheshire village with their adopted daughter. Sarah and James are discussing her coming to terms with a new project management job in Nigeria, when the doorbell rings. Neighbours Harriet and Ben have brought a “settling in” gift of homemade muffins. They stay for tea with surprising, shocking and hilarious results.

When the two Sarahs take tea with Queen Victoria the consequences are more than two of them could have imagined.

This is an amateur production by arrangement with Nick Hern Books.

Reviews of the Play

"a clever and complex vision of black Britons, then and now... The Gift offers a formally original and intellectual engagement with forgotten history, cross-racial adoption and the impact of imperialism on black British lives today." (Arifa Akbar, The Guardian)

"This is an excruciatingly well-written play as...Okoh brilliantly skewers contemporary, white views surrounding race." (Oliver Ainley,

EDI Assessment

In line with our EDI policy, we undertake an EDI impact assessment of all our artistic programming. 'The Gift' by Janice Okoh has a central diversity message notably an exploration of what it means to be of African heritage in Britain and forms of historical and contemporary racism. The playwright specifies the race/ethnicity of particular roles as crucial to the narrative of the story. 


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