Interview with Matilda Ibini

Little Miss Burden, a poignant new coming-of-age story from award-winning playwright and screenwriter Matilda Ibini, opens at the Bunker Theatre next month. I caught up with Matilda to find out more about her latest play. 

Can you tell me more about the production?
Little Miss Burden tells the story of growing up disabled in a Nigerian, Catholic household in East London in the ‘90s. It’s a coming-of-age story that interrogates what it means to grow up with a disability and how you navigate childhood and teenage years into adulthood. The story is told from the point of view of Little Miss and her non-disabled sisters, as in real life, I have 3 non-disabled siblings.

The story is heavily influenced by my Yoruba heritage, ‘90s pop culture, video games, and black girl bands of the ‘90s and early noughties.

Where did inspiration for the play come from?
It was less of an inspiration and more of a writing challenge set by Bryony Kimmings who challenged myself and a group of artists to write “What would be the show that you’d never write about?” and at the time I said I’d never write about my disability but when I put pen to paper and let the truth out it wasn’t as painful as I thought it would be. I’d also come to understand what it meant to be a black, disabled artist and how my work belonged to a cannon of artists whose work defied expectations and I wanted to contribute to that.

What can audiences expect?
Audiences can expect a loud and proud story of someone learning to accept themselves in a world that tells them to hate everything about themselves. Audiences will be surprised and challenged by a story they may not have heard before. They can also expect theatre etiquette to be thrown out the window and bulldozed.

Can you describe the play in three words?
Dynamic. Wacky. Spectacle.

What would you like Little Miss Burden to achieve?
I hope it’ll reach as many disabled audience members as possible. I hope it plays a part in cracking away some of the ableism in the industry and wider society and I hope it’s a play for three dynamic black actresses in the future to pick up and explore, and hopefully it’ll galvanise people to work with more black disabled performers. And I hope it makes my mum and ancestors proud.

Little Miss Burden will come to The Bunker from 3 – 21 December 2019.

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