Mary Slessor auditions this weekend

Local playwright Colin Wilson will be directing the first production of his sixth published work, Mary Slessor: Great White Ma.

The play was published last April by UK publishing house New Theatre Publications and took six months of research and a year of writing and edits.

Mr. Wilson spent five months near Dundee in Scotland, where Mary Slessor grew up, to get the feel of the workhouse and the tenement flats where she spent her early life.

‘I traced her actual footsteps and was able to imagine I was alongside her,’ said Mr. Wilson.

Mary Slessor loved writing letters and, courtesy of Dundee Public Library, Mr. Wilson had access to many of her letters to read.

Mary Slessor was born on 2 December, 1848 near Aberdeen, Scotland, the second of seven children. Her father was a shoemaker and a drunkard and she was raised in the Christian Presbyterian faith. She was a timid if impressionable child, never marrying, although she was engaged to a much younger man – Charles Morrisson – who is the mail lead in Mr. Wilson’s play.

In 1858, the Slessor family moved to Dundee and Mary’s father and three of her siblings died over the next four years. In 1859, she began part-time work in a weaving mill before making this a full-time occupation in 1862.

During 1864, she became very active in the church and in 1876 she was accepted for training by the Presbyterian Mission Society and sailed for Calabar (part of which is now Nigeria).

She spent the next 30 years in Africa, promoting women’s rights and stamping out the practice of killing twin babies and murdering the mother. She taught herself the local language, lived among the natives and was revered by them.

She was the first white person (let alone, female) to settle down with the fearsome Okyong tribe (she became the vice-counsel to administer justice to them) and eventually she was recognised as an outstanding missionary and began writing articles touting the abilities of Africans.

Later she administered to the Akpap, Aros and Ibibios tribes. In 1907, her health suffered a decline but she still managed to open a mission in Ikpe three years later.

In 1914 she was feted with the Silver Cross in Nigeria, but it was just a year later that she died. Despite all these achievements she has been overlooked for the most part, although she is the only woman in history to ever appear on a Scottish bank note.

Mr. Wilson’s play hopes to rectify the lack of awareness there is about Mary Slessor.

The Cayman Drama Society will stage the play at the Prospect Playhouse from 1 to 17 October, 2009.

Auditions will be held on Sunday 28 June from 3pm and Monday 29 June from 7pm at the Prospect Playhouse theatre.

The play requires a large cast, with more than 20 roles featuring all nationalities, from young teens to mature adults. Some dancing and singing is involved, but the play is not a musical.

For more information contact Colin Wilson at 916-4594 or 949-5085 or by email at [email protected].