Leading Black Playwrights in Spotlight at TricycleDate: 11 August 2009
Following its recent seasons dedicated to Afghanistan and South Africa, Kilburn's Tricycle Theatre has announced a new season premiering work by three of the country's leading black contemporary playwrights – Roy Williams, Kwame Kwei-Armah and Bola Agbaje.
Under the banner Not Black and White, the season runs from 8 October to 19 December 2009, opening with Williams' Category B, which will then be joined in rep by Kwei-Armah's Seize the Day and Agbaje's Detaining Justice. Each play is centred around life and social issues in 21st century London.
Roy Williams' Category B, which runs from 12 October to 19 December (previews from 8 October), is set in a 'Cat B' prison and examines inmate hierarchy, which becomes fractured following a flood of new arrivals.
Williams' previous plays at the Tricycle include Days of Significance (RSC), Starstruck and The Gift. His other works include Sing Yer Heart Out for the Lads and Baby Girl (National Theatre), and Lift Off, Clubland and Fallout (Royal Court). Category B will be directed by Paulette Randall, last seen at the Tricycle directing August Wilson's Radio Golf last year.
Kwame Kwei-Armah's Seize the Day opens on 2 November (previews from 22 October), and centres on the fortunes of a Jeremy Charles, a “well-spoken, good-looking” black London Mayoral candidate. He's sold his pitch on reality TV, but can he be the real people's candidate?
Kwei-Armah will direct the piece himself. He was last at the Tricycle in 2008 with Let There Be Love, which returned following a sell-out run. His break-through play was 2003's Elmina's Kitchen, the first of a triptych for the National Theatre which won him the Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright and made him the first black Briton to have a play staged in the West End when it transferred the following year. Seize the Day runs until 17 December 2009.
The final play in the season is Bola Agbaje's Detaining Justice, which opens on 30 November (previews from 25 November), running to 15 December. Directed by Indhu Rubasingham (who co-directed the Tricycle's recent Great Game Afghanistan season), the play examines the relationship with an incarcerated asylum seeker and a former government prosecutor who is assigned to defend him. But with the cloud of recession looming and unemployment rising, his fight to remain is tougher than ever.
Agbaje burst onto the scene in 2007 when she won an Olivier Award for her debut play Gone Too Far, which premiered at the Royal Court. Her subsequent work includes In Time for the Almeida Tiata Delights season and Anything You Can Do for the Soho Theatre.
Announcing the Not Black and White season, which is sponsored by the Kobler Trust, Tricycle artistic director Nicolas Kent said: “Three years ago the Tricycle launched a four month season with a black ensemble company premiering three plays chronicling the African-American experience in the 20th Century.
“As we approach the end of the first decade of the 21st Century and, across London, black and Asian children outnumber white British children by about six to four, I thought it important and challenging to look at the society in which we live from the perspective of three leading black writers.”