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Talawa Firsts 2014 - Talawa Studios

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

NOW in its 3rd year, Talawa Theatre Company’s acclaimed new-writing festival, Talawa Firsts returns to Talawa Studios between June 11 and June 27, 2014.

Talawa Studios – the company’s dedicated performance space in Old Street – will become a hub of activity for three weeks, showcasing and developing the best in Black British writing.

New plays have been curated by Talawa’s Artistic Director Michael Buffong and developed by emerging directors for staged readings.

Emerging directors involved in developing the staged readings include Kobna Holdbrook Smith, Daniel Bailey and Madeleine Kludje. Playwrights for 2014 include Theresa Ikoko, Isaac Ssebandeke, and Sabo Kpade.

This year’s Hotspot (script in development) series includes work by Christina Anderson, Marcus Hercules and Karla Williams. Highlights include No God, No Girls – exploring the issues of faith and sexuality within the black community.

Leading industry figures including former Talawa Artistic Director Paulette Randall, Actress Dona Croll (Talawa’s All My Sons) and playwright Roy Williams will host a series of Q&A’s for actors, writers and directors.


Wednesday, June 11 at 7pm: A Staged Reading of Normal, written by Theresa Ikoko and directed by Madeleine Klude.

Ikoko’s debut play, Normal explores the way we hide truth.

Sam, a teenager born to Nigerian parents living in London, is an only child. Sam’s struggle with grief is compounded by loneliness and a disconnection from his parents who are also drifting apart. As his world falls apart, Sam decides he can no longer cope with the anxieties that overwhelm him, he’s “done” with it now. Will Sam resolve his problems? Will he be able to move on with his life and find love and happiness?

Thursday, June 12 at 7pm: A Q&A with Paulette Randall.

One of the UK’s foremost Directors, Paulette Randall talks about survival in the industry and brings to bear her considerable experience as not only a former Artistic Director of Talawa Theatre Company and Associate Director for the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, but also her considerable experience as a Director and Producer in theatre, radio, television and film.

Friday, June 13 at 7pm: A Hotspot Work In Development: Christina Anderson’s Blacktop Sky, which examines the intersection of love, violence and community inside an institution with a haunting Chicago legacy: the public housing project.

After witnessing police rough up a fellow resident of the projects, 18-year-old Ida befriends a young homeless man who sleeps on a nearby bench. As their unlikely friendship grows, will it strengthen her connection to home or drive her away in search of a new life?

Wednesday, June 18 at 7pm: A Staged Reading of Isaac Ssebandeke’s My Darling Wife, directed by Daniel Bailey.

My Darling Wife charts the quasi-surreal relationship between an abusive yet loving husband and his abused yet forgiving wife. The play has been shortlisted for the King’s Head Theatre’s Adrian Pagan Award for new writing.

Can the mutual dependency our characters share resolve itself? Or are they doomed to reach an inevitably damaging conclusion?

Thursday, June 19 at 7pm: A Q&A with Roy Williams.

Roy Williams OBE, is an award-winning British playwright. His credits include Lift Off, Clubland, Offside, Sing Yer Heart Out For The Lads, Joe Guy, Days of Significance and Sucker Punch. Of writing plays he says, “Black writers have to write about whatever they want. Write about race. Don’t write about race. Just make sure your play challenges you as much as you hope it will challenge your audience . . . with or without race, ours is a messy, complicated, contradictory world – in other words, a dramatist’s dream.”

Williams’ Q&A promises to be interesting, offering insights into the world of the playwright and the challenges of crafting a story.

Friday, June 14 at 7pm: A Hotspot Work In Development: No God, No Girls, written and directed by Karla Williams and Rebecca Coley.

No God, No Girls explores themes of faith, family, sexuality and relationships, charting the lives of brothers Jack and Elijah.

Born into the Unification Church, Jack has never fit it and when his father kicks him out of the family home he promises never to return; but can the scars of the past ever allow him to move forward?

Meanwhile his brother Elijah is facing his own problems as he strives to live the life the Church would have him, only there’s one problem – he prefers boys to girls and True Father has his own ideas about the homosexual community …

Wednesday, June 25 at 7pm: A Staged Reading of Have Mercy On Liverpool Street, written by Sabo Kpade and directed by Kobna Holbrooksmith.

Have Mercy On Liverpool Street features several characters working in and around Liverpool Street Market.

Aunty Mercy is an Igbo woman, Enoch is from Bostwana, Sister Patience and Adamu are Nigerian, Kwabena is Ghanaian, Dupe is a British-Nigerian and Mr Yasin is of South Asian origin. Together their stories weave and intertwine, creating conflicts and humourous situations galore as customs, and mores are challenged by the realities of urban living in London in the 21st century.

Thursday, June 26 at 7pm: A Q&A with Dona Croll.

Doña Croll is best known from her appearances in popular British television programmes such as Doctors, Gimme, Gimme, Gimme, EastEnders and Brothers and Sisters. She has also worked extensively in the theatre for many years in many notable productions including The Christ of Coldharbour Lane and Measure for Measure (Plymouth Theatre Royal), Elmina’s Kitchen (National Theatre) and Talawa Theatre Company’s production of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons (Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester). Croll will offer unmissable insights into the actor’s life.

Friday, June 21 at 7pm: A Hotspot Work In Development: Prison Game, written and performed by Marcus Hercules.

Prison Game addresses how we create prisons for ourselves and the consequences we might unwittingly bring upon ourselves.

Mike is examining his life and friendships, breaking free from the shackles of damaging relationships that imprison him and lower his expectations. Freedom is something we can all achieve, the question is how?

Marcus Hercules is a writer, director, actor and workshop leader, who has formed his own company, Hercules Productions.

Tickets: £8 – available online at

Talawa Studios, 53-55 East Road, London, N1 6AH