News: Talawa celebrates 35th anniversary with new season of work

The UK’s Black British theatre company, Talawa celebrates its 35th anniversary with a season of work showcasing unmissable established and emerging talent. From expanding community work to exploring new ways for theatre to reach audiences, the ambition of the company has never diminished or wavered. Talawa’s forward-looking anniversary season includes works-in-progress by promising writers, the company’s first outdoor production, the return of one of the company’s most innovative shows and a production that lost out on its original staging due to the pandemic.

Talawa’s Artistic Director and Joint CEO, Michael Buffong 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 Stories kicked off the anniversary season in May with broadcasts on BBC Radio 4 of three original plays by three promising young writers, Sian Davila, Charles Entsie and Roberta Livingston. All three can be listened to again on the Talawa website: www.talawa.com.

Talawa Firsts, the stage for fresh Black creative voices, will present more new work by some of the most exciting British writers this July and pay-what-you-can booking opens soon at http://www.talawa.com. Alongside the staged readings of new work, Talawa Firsts will offer opportunities and workshops for Black artists, creatives and communities to learn about and explore theatre making.

The first staged readings will be on Thursday 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. With 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.

On Thursday 15 July, the new plays from Manchester-based writer, performance artist and producer, Keisha Thompson and writer and producer Juliana Ayeni Stevens will have their staged readings. 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?

In August, Talawa brings back The Tide for their first outdoor production. An artistic collaboration between choreographer Jade Hackett and writer Ryan Calais Cameron, The Tide explores the narratives and experiences of migration within the United Kingdom whilst holding a mirror up to an evolving British culture. The Tide is a Talawa Theatre Company, FESTIVAL.ORG, and Breakin’ Convention co-production; it is supported by Without Walls. Having wowed festival audiences in 2019, The Tide will play in Croydon and at Greenwich+Docklands International Festival. Full details will be announced soon.

Bringing rave to theatre, Talawa’s revival of Run It Back will run from 2 – 18 September at Fairfield Halls. Set in an explosive club night, Run It Back 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. Booking will open in July 2021.

This autumn, Talawa and Park Theatre present their co-production of Archie Maddocks’ A Place for We, directed by Michael Buffong. Set in a funeral parlour in Brixton, A Place for We tells the story of London’s changing communities over three very different generations. In the wake of the Windrush scandal, Archie Maddocks’ bittersweet comedy holds a mirror up to the ever-changing face of London’s communities in search of their common beating heart. A Place for We will be presented at Park Theatre this autumn. Full details to follow.

Alongside this, a comprehensive audience development and community engagement plan will build on Talawa’s community focus in Croydon. Talawa will also expand TYPT from a month-long summer school into a 9-month programme. From autumn 2021 to spring 2022, 30 participants aged 18 to 25 will develop a devised performance and take part in offstage workshops and production skills. Past TYPT alumni include Michaela Coel, Natasha Marshall, Femi Oguns, Sandra Thompson Quartey, and Heather Agyepong. The TYPT production will take place at Talawa’s Studio at Fairfield Halls in April 2022.

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