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Princess Essex

It’s 1908 and Joanna is planning to attract the attention of both Southend and the whole nation by becoming the first black woman to compete in a beauty pageant in the UK.

Many pageants of the time had colour bars in place, however at The Kursaal in Southend there appears to have been a misprint; a loophole, and maybe, just maybe, Joanna could enter but in disguise!

Initially, it’s all fun and games – everybody wants to know who this African Princess is – but then it suddenly dawns on Joanna that she might actually win, but what if they were to discover in the meantime that she isn’t in fact who she says she is? How might her actions affect her family, and other black people living in Essex?

Written and performed by Anne Odeke (RSC, Shakespeare’s Globe, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch), Princess Essex is the real-life comedic tale of how one woman took on the prejudices of the time and in doing so, realised the importance of being true to oneself.

Created with public funding from Arts Council England, the show is also in partnership with The Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, The Mercury Theatre Colchester and the South Essex African and Caribbean Association (SEACA).

Age Guidance 12+

Warning: The play uses authentic language of the time, which some people may find offensive.


27 Feb 2022




+65p QNext fee

Running Time

60 minutes


No interval in this performance


The Other Stage

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