Donal O’Kelly’s THE CAMBRIA has toured to New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Liverpool, Glasgow, Harare, Lusaka, and many venues throughout Ireland.
The Cambria was a Cunard Line Transatlantic paddle-steamer. On August 10th 1845, among the passengers on board was an escaped slave called Frederick Douglass. His autobiography had just become a bestseller. Slave-owners placed a price on his head and he was forced to flee the US. He headed for Ireland.
The Cambria tells the story of the eventful voyage he survived to become what Abraham Lincoln called "the most impressive man I ever met”, and the most influential African-American public figure of the 19th century.
Frederick Douglass’s powers of oratory saw him become known as ‘The Black O’Connell’ in Ireland, after lifelong anti-slavery campaigner Daniel O’Connell MP, with whom he spoke on several platforms.
The Cambria starts and finishes in Dublin Airport today, where a teacher finds that her Nigerian pupil has just been deported. Douglass’s time-honoured quote resonates: “Power concedes nothing without demand; it never did, and it never will”.
The Cambria ran to rave reviews in The Irish Arts Centre New York, in collaboration with the Classical Theatre of Harlem. A radio version came fifth in the Prix Europa 2014, and was broadcast in English and Swedish on Swedish station UR in 2016. The Cambria is published in Staging Intercultural Ireland edited by Charlotte McIvor and Matthew Spangler, Cork University Press 2014.
Performed by Sorcha Fox and Donal O’Kelly, with sound design by Trevor Knight. Based on original direction by Raymond Keane.
“This two-person show is a superb evening at the theatre. Both actors play a multitude of characters ... with speed and skill that can only be described as polymorphic. Don't be left on shore when The Cambria weighs anchor.”_ NYTHEATRE.COM
“Entertaining, thought provoking and beautifully crafted…a well aimed appeal to our better selves.” _Fintan O’Toole, THE IRISH TIMES
“A first-class ticket to Dublin - wonderful to watch.” _ THE GUARDIAN
“ Vintage O’Kelly here is this searing, soaring true story…gorgeous stuff…a delightful exercise in the possibilities of theatre” _ SUNDAY TIMES
“A Gripping play ... a highly commendable production” _ SUNDAY BUSINESS POST
“With just two fine actors, one good script and a minimal amount of staging, this production puts to shame most of what I have seen on Broadway and off this entire season…” _ LIFE UPON THE SACRED STAGE, NEW YORK
“Superb actors… The Cambria provides one of those concentrated, magical experiences one hopes for every time one takes one’s seat in the theatre” _ BLOGCRITICS.ORG NEW YORK
“With his new play "The Cambria" playwright and actor Donal O’Kelly steps to the frontline of contemporary Irish playwrights.. you’ll be swept up by the storyline from start to finish” _ IRISHCENTRAL.COM - IRISH VOICE - NEW YORK
“Wonderful romp .. outstanding dexterity .. a rousing finale. Bravo!” _ SUNDAY TRIBUNE
“Provocative, elegantly structured work .. excellent performances” _ IRISH EXAMINER