Gritty drama strikes a ‘Belle’ balance

Dramatic momentum steadily builds to Lord Mansfield's deliberation on the Zong case, watched intently by Dido and Davinier.

Dramatic momentum steadily builds to Lord Mansfield's deliberation on the Zong case, watched intently by Dido and Davinier.

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‘Belle’ is the dramatisation of a true story of fortitude across racial and class divides at a time when pompous men of privilege were debating the end of slavery in England.

At the centre of the debate is the crew of a ship, Zong, who had thrown dozens of slaves overboard because they claimed they did not have enough supplies. The subsequent trial posed uncomfortable questions about the monetary value of human life.

Captain Sir John Lindsay (Matthew Goode) brings his illegitimate, mixed race daughter Dido (Lauren Julien-Box) to England and entrusts the child to his aristocratic uncle, Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson).

Dido (now played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is afforded certain privileges by her lineage but she must remain behind closed doors at important social gatherings.

Elegantly scripted by Misan Sagay, ‘Belle’ is a beautifully crafted companion piece to ‘12 Years A Slave’ that traverses a moral maze through British eyes and reminds us that we have blood on our hands too.

The ensemble cast delivers excellent performances, particularly Mbatha-Raw, who possesses beauty and vulnerability on camera.