Jenny Jules, Danny Sapani (pictured together) and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who appeared together last May in the European premiere of Theodore Ward’s ‘lost’ black American play Big White Fog, return to the Almeida Theatre next week for the summer residency of British African company Tiata Fahodzi. Now in its fourth year, Tiata Delights 08, running from 28 July to 1 August 2008, will showcase six new plays by emerging and established British African playwrights resident in the UK, including Bola Agbaje, who won an Olivier this year for Gone Too Far!, which is revived this week at the Royal Court.

Jules – who, after Big White Fog, became the first black actress to play Ruth in Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming at the Almeida – Sapani and Mbatha-Raw are joined in the Tiata company by Cathy Tyson, Cyril Nri and Ellen Thomas as well as Ayo-Dele Ajana, Jude Akuwudike, Aml Ameen, Shyko Amos, Christopher Colquhoun, Adetomiwa Edun, Tunde Euba, Cush Jumbo, Martina Laird, Charles Mnene, Yetunde Oduwole, Rhoda Ofori-Attah, Chike Okonkwo, Marcy Oni, Ben Onwukwe, Israel Oyelumade, Richard Pepple, Joy Elias-Rilwan and Clifford Samuel.

The rehearsed readings of the six new plays – also by Francis Aidoo, Yvonne Dodoo, Rex Obano, Nii Ayikwei Parkes and Ade Solanke in addition to Agbaje’s, which opens the week-long event – will be directed by Syan Blake, Gbemisola Ikumelo, Nick Oshikanlu and Tiata Fahodzi founder and artistic director Femi Elufowoju Jr. The week culminates in a concert of eclectic British African music on 2 August.

Tiata Fahodzi was founded in 1997 under the aegis of Theatre Royal Stratford East, where Femi Elufowoju Jr served as a trainee director. The company produces new writing from established and emerging writers alongside classics exploring the richness and heritage of theatre sourced from people living within British African communities. Tiata Delights has a track record of discovering new plays which subsequently receive full productions, including Oladipo Agboluaje’s The Estate and Michael Bhim’s Pure Gold for Soho Theatre and Levi David Addai’s Oxford Street for the Royal Court. Recently Tiata Fahodzi presented Roy Williams’ Whatsonstage.com and Evening Standard Award-nominated Joe Guy, which was directed by Elufowoju.


In other play casting news:

  • Ben Miles returns to the Old Vic - where he last appeared as Bolingbroke opposite artistic director Kevin Spacey’s title character in the 2005 production of Richard II - to join the stellar ensemble in Matthew Warchus’ in-the-round revival of Alan Ayckbourn’s comic trilogy The Norman Conquests in the specially reconfigured auditorium, where the three plays - Table Manners, Living Together and Round and Round the Garden - run runs in rep from 6 October to 20 December 2008 (previews from 11 September) . As previously reported (See News, 20 May 2007), Stephen Mangan plays Norman, in a cast that also features Amanda Root, Paul Ritter, Amelia Bullmore and Jessica Hynes.

    ** DON’T MISS our Whatsonstage.com Outing to THE NORMAN CONQUESTS on 1 October 2008 – including a FREE drink & a FREE programme! – all for only £30!! - click here to book now! **

  • At the Duke of York’s Theatre, another high-profile ensemble – for this week’s West End premiere of David Eldridge’s Under the Blue Sky - is complete by Nigel Lindsay, who was Whatsonstage.com Award-nominated for Awake and Sing at the Almeida. His many other stage credits include The Homecoming, Guys and Dolls, The Pillowman and The Real Thing. The cast of Under the Blue Sky, which opens this Friday 25 July 2008 (previews from 15 July), also comprises Catherine Tate, Francesca Annis, Lisa Dillon, Chris O\'Dowd and Dominic Rowan. Anna Mackmin directs.

    ** DON’T MISS our Whatsonstage.com Outing to UNDER THE BLUE SKY on 21 August 2008 – including a FREE programme & our EXCLUSIVE post-show Q&A with author, director & members of the cast – just £27.50!! - click here to book now! **

  • And finally, at the West End’s Criterion Theatre, Alan Perrin and Nigel Betts take over from 28 July 2008 as the new clowns in The 39 Steps, Patrick Barlow’s multi-award-winning adaptation of John Buchan’s whodunit, memorably filmed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1935. They join Jo Stone-Fewings, as Hannay, and Josefina Gabrielle in Maria Aitken’s production, playing “150 roles” between them to tell the tale of London bachelor Richard Hannay fleeing to Scotland and breaking a spy ring to prove his innocence after a woman is found murdered in his home.

    - by Terri Paddock