Talawa Theatre Company reveals new season of plays by black British writers

The Tide, Run It Back and A Place for We feature in Talawa Theatre Company’s new season of plays to be staged around London

Run It Back Fairfield Halls
Run It Back at Fairfield Halls. Photo: Sanaa Abstrakt

Talawa Theatre Company is celebrating its 35th anniversary with a new season of plays by black British writers to be staged in performance spaces around London.

In August, it will present its first outdoor production when it brings back The Tide, a collaboration between choreographer Jade Hackett and writer Ryan Calais Cameron. It explores the narratives and experiences of migration within the UK while holding a mirror up to an evolving British culture.

After wowing festival audiences in 2019, The Tide will play in Croydon and at Greenwich+Docklands International Festival which runs from 27 August to 11 September. It is a co-production with Festival.org and Breakin’ Convention and is supported by Without Walls.

Talawa is also reviving Run It Back which immerses the audience in black British club culture with dance, physical theatre and a live set from DJ and turntablist Psykhomantus. Conceived and directed by Coral Messam, it was created with Gail Babb and co-devised by TYPT:18. After its original run was postponed due to the pandemic, it will run at Fairfield Halls in Croydon from 2 to 18 September.

This autumn, Talawa and Park Theatre in north London present their co-production of Archie Maddocks’ A Place for We, directed by Talawa’s artistic director, Michael Buffong. Set in a funeral parlour in Brixton, it tells the story of London’s changing communities over three very different generations.

In the wake of the Windrush scandal, Maddocks’ bittersweet comedy holds a mirror up to the ever-changing face of London’s communities in search of their common beating heart.

More details of all these productions will be announced soon.

Talawa is starting its season with Talawa Firsts, featuring staged readings of work by fresh black creative voices. With pay-what-you-can booking via talawa.com, they will be live streamed.

The first staged readings will be on 8 July with new work by Manchester-based playwright and film-maker William Nyerere Plastow and writer, performer and long-standing Talawa artist, Natasha Marshall.

In Terror Management Theory, Plastow traces the cracks in the marriage of businesswoman Violet and ex-soldier Chris when Violet’s abusive ex-boyfriend Kwame comes to dinner with an unexpected guest.

In The Smiley Show, Marshall takes us into Mr and Mrs Smiley’s happy life with their daughter, Lucky. But things are far from perfect: a clown keeps appearing to tell Lucky twisted fairy tales and leading her to believe things aren’t what they seem.

Staged readings on 15 July will be new plays from Manchester-based writer, performance artist and producer Keisha Thompson and writer and producer Juliana Ayeni Stevens.

Thompson’s 14% follows Nadia and Tony as they attempt to quantify their Britishness in a spiralling double narrative set within a claustrophobic train carriage.

Ayeni Stevens’ Work This Pussy introduces us to Kitz, a black British Nigerian who is proud to be from Essex and is unafraid to talk about her sexuality, her childhood, her culture and her faith. After years of suppressing her sexual identity, she’s on a path to tackle those cultural, social and religious conditions to finally face who she really is. But how real is her life?

Alongside the staged readings, Talawa Firsts will offer opportunities and workshops for black artists, creatives and communities to learn about and explore theatre making.

As a leading British black theatre company, Talawa have established a track record of producing work that shines a spotlight on black artists, mounting more than 50 productions since being set up in 1986.

Buffong, who is joint CEO as well as artistic director, said: “We’ve learned a lot through the pandemic. We know that there are stories which can be told in many different ways, so we will experiment with livestreaming and digital capture through this season so that black work by vital, passionate and intelligent storytellers can be experienced by everyone, everywhere and on-demand.”

Talawa’s executive director and joint CEO, Carolyn ML Forsyth added: “We’ve placed audience development and community engagement at the heart of our programme. We’re focused on launching in Croydon and talking to our communities nationwide, building towards UK-wide activities over the next four years. It’s an exciting time to be at Talawa!”

talawa.com

About Mark Ludmon 248 Articles
Mark Ludmon has been a journalist for over 20 years, specialising in theatre as well as hospitality and drinks after starting out on regional daily newspapers. He has an MA in early modern literature and history, focusing on Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, and a theatre studies MA from Royal Central School of Speech & Drama. He has also been on the judging panel for the Olivier Awards. He can be found tweeting as @MarkLudmon and writing about theatre at https://markludmon.com.