Talawa Firsts is 10 years old; providing a stage for some of the freshest new voices in Black British theatre, the festival includes exciting double bill stage readings, online Q+As with writers and theatres and in-person workshops for writers and theatre makers.
Talawa Theatre Company is the UK's outstanding Black theatre company who, for 35 years, have been shining a spotlight on the most exciting Black British talent. Talawa Firsts demonstrates their commitment to Black British artists and creatives. Previous Talawa First writers include Theresa Ikoko (Rocks, Netflix); Charlene James (Cutting It); Rex Obano (Faith, Hope and Charity, BBC Radio 4); David Judge (Sparkplug, UK tour); Safaa Benson (Til Death Do Us Part, Theatre503); Natasha Marshall (Half Breed, Soho Theatre); Nicole Lecky (Mood, BBC; Superhoe, Royal Court); Tife Kusoro (Shortlisted, Women’s Playwright Prize Award) and Archie Maddocks (Olivier Award-nominated A Place for We).
Michael Buffong, Artistic Director of Talawa Theatre Company, comments Talawa Theatre Company has always been an essential platform for launching new Black creative talent. The growth of Talawa Firsts proves that fresh, innovative, provocative and unapologetic work by 2 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.
Tuesday 14th June sees a lunchtime zoom Q&A panel with Talawa writers – Archie Maddoxand Sian Carter (Running with Lions) – talking about the writing process. This is followed in the evening by an Introduction to Playwriting workshop with Michelle Matherson (Development Executive, BBC), which will be held at Talawa's Studio at Fairfield Halls. It will explore the foundations for bringing ideas and characters to the page.
On Wednesday 15th June, watch a double bill of new plays – The Soon Life by Phoebe McIntosh and Babydyke by Rashida Seriki, which will also be livestreamed. The Soon Life introduces us to a woman in labour; too scared to go to the hospital in lockdown London, she’s decided to have the ‘perfect’ homebirth with nothing but a birthing ball and a Fleabag boxset. But her plans are derailed when her ex turns up. As her labour progresses and with the midwife unreachable, the pair are forced to confront the remnants of their relationship and their breakup before the arrival of their child. Babydyke follows 19-year-old Tara who is her father’s carer and a bit of recluse. When she meets Phoenix, she is thrust into an eyeopening world of firsts and first love. Her father just wants Tara to be normal, the absolute opposite of him. As she becomes more open and vocal, she has to navigate finding a way for the happiness she's found outside of her home to coalesce with the deteriorating dynamics inside it.
There are more workshops on Thursday 16th June with a lunchtime zoom Q&A panel with the Bush Theatre and the Kiln Theatre about pitching for new writers. Literary managers from these top theatres will discuss top tips for pitching new work. That evening, head to the Talawa Studio for a devising and storytelling workshop with Croydon-based theatre maker Cassiopeia Berkeley-Agyepong.
On Friday 17th June watch Barbie Comes To Tea by Shanika Warren-Markland, a family drama set at a barbeque. Tension and jealousy rise from parental attention and old choices, and sibling rivalry emerges between the drinking and dancing. Everyone has views about how Willow should raise her young child but a shocking accident forces them all to grow up quickly.
With more to be announced about the talks and plays, Talawa Firsts is an exciting and important platform for learning and showcasing new work.
Talawa Firsts is supported by Arts Council England and Backstage Trust.