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Guest Blog: Chinonyerem Odimba On BLACK LOVE at the Kiln Theatre

Odimba has written the book and lyrics, and also directs this acclaimed production

Guest Blog: Chinonyerem Odimba On BLACK LOVE at the Kiln Theatre
Chinonyerem Odimba

Black Love is...

This play. It is a play borne out of my own love for telling stories but also telling stories that allow Black Love to be seen on stages. It is a need to keep telling stories that allow for the nuances of Black lives and experiences, but also in forms that challenge any ideas that there is only one way to tell a story.

For me, Black Love as an idea started seven years ago as I was working as an assistant director in London. In a supermarket on the way home, I overheard a conversation between two Black men that was not new to me, but the boldness with which they were saying it in public did take me by surprise - and hurt.

I didn't know how that was going to make its way to the page but when I was presented with a chance to write a play for Paines Plough, the idea seemed ever present again. This is story about the love within Black families. The love society seems so keen to keep hidden from our culturally lives and imaginations. The story we are regularly told are of dysfunctional, strict, and unloving homes. And for some that is very true and very real. But that is not the whole picture and Black Love is for me a way of exploring that.

It is also important that I started writing the play just before summer 2020. The play was changed and, dare I say it, became more truthful after witnessing the murder of George Floyd. He was not the first, nor will he be the last, but it felt that we were witnessing this in a different way. That was what was around me as I wrote Black Love - a distorted, painful, and confusing soundtrack to my imagination.

Very early on I knew I wanted the piece to be a musical and having worked with Ben and Max Ringham on a previous show, that collaboration felt right for many reasons but mainly because there was an acceptance that some of what I wanted to do in the story would not be considered 'traditional' or logical for a musical. They believed in the vision from the outset and that meant we could really explore some of the spaces within the play - naturalistic, ancestral, global - through music and sound.

Guest Blog: Chinonyerem Odimba On BLACK LOVE at the Kiln Theatre
Beth Elliot, Nicholle Cherrie and
Nathan Queeley Dennis
in rehearsal for Black Love

Over the last few weeks, the cast having taken on these characters have worked tirelessly to embody, embrace, and electrify the words and songs with so much grace and fearlessness. Creatives, stage management and technical teams who have kept bringing the best of their work, and themselves to the process. To them I am eternally grateful.

This process has been a learning moment for us all, but what I am most proud of is that we have done that through care and compassion and joy.

I am now one day away from opening the show, and like all artists and creatives who work so hard to put something out in the world, you want everyone else to love it as much as you do. But I have found some truth and peace in that what this show is attempting to do, and how radical it is in form and presentation, is to tell the truth. The truth is not always comfortable or easy to hear. But without the truth, there is no chance of healing and putting right the many wrongs we are still having to relive and live through.

Black Love is...

Everything that I can do to uplift Black people. Black Love is allowing our multitudes and nuances to exist. Black Love is realising that there is not one story.

I am so excited to see this story, and many more to come from all the brilliant artists that make up British theatre, hold space for audiences and communities so they can see themselves on stages.

Black Love is at the Kiln Theatre until 23 April

Photo credit: Camilla Greenwell

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