Line Up Revealed For Talawa Firsts Festival

Talawa Theatre Company has revealed the line up for Talawa Firsts 2019: the annual festival dedicated to new Black British theatre writers and makers. By offering a platform to present new work and participate in developmental workshops, Talawa Firsts champions the depth and breadth of new theatre making and writing, representing the diversity of Black voices in theatre and the performing arts. The festival will run from 19 June - 5 July 2019 at Shoreditch Town Hall.

Talawa's Artistic Director Michael Buffong said: In its thirty-three-year history, Talawa Theatre Company has always been an essential platform for launching new Black creative talent. In recent years, writers like Nic le Lecky, Natasha Marshall, Theresa Ikoko and others have all gone on to achieve success following their Talawa Firsts writing debuts. The growth of Talawa Firsts proves that fresh, innovative, provocative and unapologetic work by Black creatives is not 'risky'. There are many stories to be told, and in vital and dynamic ways. Powerful and honest, our Black creatives are writing, performing and creating history.

The Talawa Firsts programme presents new passionate and personal stories on Wednesdays. Participatory workshops take place on Thursdays, building resilience and skills for people who want to develop their practice. On Fridays, Talawa Firsts presents exciting mixed bills of theatre makers: artists playing with form, fusing poetry, spoken word, music and movement to tell stories for non-traditional theatre audiences.

Shoreditch Town Hall Director, James Pidgeon, said: We're thrilled to welcome Talawa Theatre Company back to Shoreditch Town Hall after last presenting The Serpent's Tooth as part of our inaugural season in 2012. Talawa Firsts is one of the UK's most vital platforms for new Black theatre makers, and so we're incredibly excited to collaborate with Talawa to house the whole festival under one roof as part of our commitment to developing and presenting adventurous new work by bold and innovative artists.

Talawa Firsts represents Talawa Theatre Company's enduring commitment to new writers and exciting theatre makers, enriching the theatre ecology by challenging traditional forms of theatre, and enabling new writers' voices to be heard. The festival is the culmination of year-round script and artist development programme undertaken by Talawa in collaboration with its artists and writers.


Wednesdays: Playwrights

A showcase for fresh, exciting new plays by emerging Black playwrights in staged readings.

Wednesday 19 June 7.15pm

Fly Home Butterfly

Written by Tife Kusoro

Directed by Abigail Sewell

Laide came to the UK to find a better life for her daughter. She works back-breaking jobs to make ends meet for Dele's private school education. Dele tries to be academically excellent; a 'good' one. When Dele receives an offer to study at the University of Oxford, she is suddenly forced to question what it costs to belong, and whether this price is worth it.

Written by Talawa's TYPT 2018 Run It Back company member, Tife Kusoro.

Wednesday 26 June 7.15pm


Written by Ryan Cameron

Directed by Anastasia Osei-Kuffour

Clarence doesn't want things to change. But Brixton is changing around him. His traditional West Indian funeral parlour must adapt to survive or stay true to tradition and risk everything.

Ryan is part of Talawa's MAKE Attachment artists Nouveau Rich , and co-creator of The Tide: Talawa's first work created exclusively for outdoor performance. Anastasia presented Hosea's Girl at Talawa Firsts 2015.

Wednesday 3 July 7.15pm


Written by Babirye Bukilwa

Directed by Miranda Cromwell

With an alarm clock set to an hour, and in a few words and lots of stillness, we meet an ordinary woman in an extraordinary crisis that could change her life forever.

Using naturalism, singing, music and beat poetry, babirye debuts her first ever commissioned play about the re discovery of all of one's self at twilight. babiriye is a Talawa commissioned writer for hour, having first previewed the piece at Talawa Firsts in 2017. In that same year, Miranda Cromwell directed Natasha Marshall's Half Breed, which also previewed at Talawa Firsts before going on to be co-produced with Soho Theatre and touring the UK and internationally.

Thursdays: Take Part

Provocation, participation and the chance to develop your practice with Talawa and our guest facilitators.

Thursday 20 June 7.15pm

Writing for the Stage

With Somalia Seaton and Matilda Ibini

Do you write a diary? Poems? Stories? What about a scene? If you have ever dreamt of being a playwright, come along and two leading Black British playwrights will give you some tools for generating story and structure.

Thursday 27 June 7.15pm

Directing The First Steps

With Michael Buffong and Jade Lewis

Have you ever thought of directing? Start your directors journey here. Discover the basics of directing in Talawa's Firsts' masterclass, led by established and emerging directors.

Jade Lewis directed Nic le Lecky's Superhoe, a Talawa Theatre Company and Royal Court co-production.

Thursday 4 July 7.15pm

Making Performance

With Ewa Dina and Esme Allman

Are you a maker looking for opportunities to add different processes and exercises to develop your making practice? Develop your toolkit, play and have fun making with Esme and Ewa.

Ewa Dina was part of Talawa'S TYPT: 18 production, Run It Back, on which Esme Allman was Assistant Director.

Fridays: Mixed Bills

A platform for innovative, inspiring and exciting Black theatre makers to showcase their work in mixed bill performances.

Friday 21 June 7.15pm

A Mixed Bill 1

Featuring Louisa Robbin, Marv Radio and FUBUNATION Dance

tessellate by Louisa Robbin is about forgiveness, about going in circles, breaking bad habits. Self-help blogs, sex as self-medication, writing lists. The rule of three, an exit strategy, recovery.

Mantra by Marv Radio is a show like no other with a performer like no other. Three times Team UK Beatbox Champion Marv Radio takes audiences on an immersive storytelling adventure to other worlds. Weaving together his own stories based on his journey through life, hip hop and spirituality, Marv Radio's Mantra combines the mediums of rapping, beatboxing, storytelling, movement and improvisation skills to change the way we think about beatbox, spoken word and theatre.

Ruins by FUBUNATION Dance: We are deconstructing the power struggle within ourselves and finding the balance between conflict, vulnerability and co-dependency. Allowing us to own and repair our own deeper anxieties that we have learned so well to mask.

Friday 28th June 7.15pm

A Mixed Bill 2

Featuring Aminita Francis, Vanessa Macaulay and Olivia Douglass

SUGARLAND by Aminita Francis. A mash-up of music and poetry, it explores what it means to be a 'strong black woman', a matriarch and a victim in one body. Aminita was part of Talawa's TYPT:17 company for Bite Your Tongue.

Made Not Born by Vanessa Macaulay. Made Not Born is Vanessa's story of growing up in Hertfordshire, trying to fit in. In a country saturated by US influence, can there be such a thing as a Black British female identity? From Swan Lake to the Spice Girls via a bodybuilder mother, Made Not Born is my search for belonging.

Palm As Portal by Olivia Douglass. Palm As Portal is a rallying call for a re-imagined understanding of intimacy. Combining poetry, sound and audience participation, the piece embarks on a meditative journey through self-acceptance, queer intimacy and communal nurturing.

Friday 5 July 7.15pm

A Mixed Bill 3

Featuring Belinda Zhawi, Chelle OT, AGAMA, Mwen and more

Through poetry, music and movement, explore familial dynamics, youth culture, identity and religion in new and exciting ways.

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