Make a Donation!
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
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 play has 11 meaty character roles, some of which could be doubled. It is integral to the central story that certain characters are of Black and minority ethnic background

All the actors will drink lots of tea and eat lots of cake.

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


Sarah Bonetta Davies, Black, 19 to early 20s

James Davies Sarah’s husband, Black, mid-30s – 40s

Aggie their servant, Black, any age

Mrs Schoen Sara Bonetta’s guardian, white, 50s

Reverend Venn an unexpected guest, white, 50s

Harriet Waller an unexpected guest, white, 50s

Sarah (Cheshire), Black, late 30s – early 40s

James (Cheshire) Sarah’s husband, Black, 40s

Harriet (Cheshire) an unexpected guest, white, 40s

Ben (Cheshire) Harriet’s husband, white, 40s

Queen Victoria, white, 40s

Read through, all welcome, Monday 4th October 2021 at 7:30pm in the theatre bar.

Auditions: Sunday October 17th 2pm-430pm, Monday October 18th at 7:30pm and Thursday October 21st at 7:30pm.

You do not have to be a Criterion member to attend the reading or the auditions and auditions are conducted according to our EDI Policy.

Please contact the director Christine Ingall for more information on

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. 


Share your memory of The Gift
By clicking Share you agree to allow us to publish your memory on our website for others to enjoy. We reserve the right to not publish any content we believe to be inappropriate.
©2021 The Criterion Theatre Ltd
Registered UK 01643977
Registered Charity 1161430