Since the death of George Floyd on the 25th of May 2020, the world has seen what is being described as “the biggest civil rights movement in history”. Alongside signing petitions, donating, and protesting in a variety of forms, people are being called to educate themselves on racism, Black culture, and a repeated history of oppression and marginalisation.
Theatre has the power to fulfil a very small part of this education, however it is difficult to know where to begin when it comes to diversifying the art and media that we cosume in order to listen, and actively learn from, the stories that Black artists and practitioners are putting out into the world, and a white-dominated industry, everyday. With this in mind, here are just a handful of Black-led theatre companies that are doing crucial work and deserve our following.
Talawa Theatre Company
Talawa is one of the United Kingdom’s biggest, Black-led, touring theatre companies, and has been running for over thirty-three years. According to their website, Talawa’s theatre “is informed by the wealth and diversity of the Black British experience” to “create outstanding work by cultivating the best in emerging and established Black artists”.
Founded in 1997, Tiata Fahodzi (which translates to ‘theatre of the emancipated’) are based in London. Their work is underpinned by their vision for the future of Great Britain, which strives to create an artistic space in an industry that “still fails to see so many people, experiences and identities”. Exploring “what it is to be of African heritage in Britain today”, Tiata Fahodzi ensures that am “African diaspora experience provides a lens for us all to see our lives”.
Eclipse Theatre are a Northern-based company who have spearheaded a range of artistic programmes that aim “to create new work using the insights and experiences of Black British people of African and Caribbean backgrounds”. In 2019, they completed a three-year project that supported over 2,000 Northern, Black artists in working locally, nationally and internationally.
According to their Facebook page, Sculptress Theatre “is a place for dreamers and exceptional individuals to share their truth” that is taking the theatre industry by storm, despite only being around for a couple of years. Creating work that breaks social and theatrical boundaries, the company aim to re-define black narratives by specifically amplifying “the voices of black female creatives”.
“HighRise are a theatre collective who seek to spark conversation and build bridges between forgotten communities by representing the rhythm of the streets”. Primarily exploring race and culture within British cities, the creative team use their personal experiences and memories of city life, as well as music, to “give the unheard a voice through theatre”.
Please visit Black Theatre Live to learn more about the importance of Black theatre, and why we should all be striving to diversify our artistic consumption.
Words by Morgan Hartley.