While Talawa’s plans for creating a home for black theatre at Westminster fell through earlier this month (See News, 14 Jul 2005), another London theatre will form a resident company of black actors later this year.

As part of a four-month season, running from 24 November 2005 to 18 March 2006 at north London’s Tricycle Theatre, seven actors will perform in three successive British premieres of African-American plays – Abram Hill’s Walk Hard (written in 1938, opened on Broadway in 1942) as well as August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean and Lynn Nottage’s Fabulation (both first seen in New York last year).

The season kicks off with Walk Hard, which is directed by Tricycle artistic director Nicolas Kent and runs from 24 November to 24 December 2005. It charts the rise and fall of Andy Whitman, a 19-year-old shoe shine who gets discovered by a boxing scout after a street fight. Boxing doesn’t fit with Andy’s family’s hopes that he’ll go to college, but he sees it as his ticket out of America. Author Abram Hill co-founded the pioneering American Negro Theatre in Harlem in 1940.

Gem of the Ocean is the ninth play in August Wilson’s (pictured) ten-play cycle chronicling the African-American experience through each decade of the last century. It’s set in 1904 on the eve of Aunt Ester’s birthday, remarkably her 287th. The new production is directed by former Talawa artistic director Paulette Randall, who also directed three earlier Wilson UK premieres at the Tricycle - The Piano Lesson, Two Trains Running and, most recently, King Hedley II. Gem of the Ocean runs from 6 January to 4 February 2006.

The African-American season concludes, from 16 February to 18 March 2006, with Fabulation, written by Brooklyn-based Lynn Nottage and directed by Indhu Rubasingham (Yellowman, Clubland). It tells the story of a successful publicist whose once-stable life disintegrates when her husband walks out on her, taking all her money with him. Casting so far confirmed for the cross-production company includes Carmen Munroe, Jenny Jules Joseph Marcell, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith and Ony Unhiara.

Ahead of the African-American season this autumn, the Tricycle will bring back its acclaimed verbatim drama, Bloody Sunday - Scenes from the Saville Inquiry, which had a sell-out run this past April. It will play for 20 performances only from 20 September to 8 October 2005 before transferring to the Dublin Theatre Festival. Prior to London, it will also visit Belfast and Derry in Ireland.

On Sunday 30 January 1972, 13 civil rights marchers were shot dead and another 13 were injured when British soldiers opened fire during an anti-internment civil rights march in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. The original inquiry in 1972 by Lord Chief Justice, Lord Widgery, was branded the “Widgery Whitewash” by many who were unhappy with the findings. The Saville Inquiry was opened in 1998 as part of the Northern Ireland Peace Process. Over six years, it heard evidence from over 1,000 witnesses. Bloody Sunday is written by the Guardian’s Richard Norton-Taylor, based on witness accounts, and is directed by Nicolas Kent.

It’s followed by the Nottingham Playhouse production of Arnold Wesker’s 1958 play, Chicken Soup with Barley, which is based on Wesker’s own experiences growing up in a Jewish family in the London’s East End at the time of the 1930s anti-fascist riots. The political drama – which was the first of Wesker’s autobiographical trilogy that also included Roots and I’m Talking About Jerusalem - was presented in Nottingham this past April, the first professional UK production of the piece in over 20 years, and is directed by Nottingham artistic director Giles Croft. It runs at the Tricycle from 13 October to 19 November 2005.

- by Terri Paddock