‘The tree has four or five leaves’: Talawa, Britishness and the first all-Black production of Waiting for Godot in Britain

Igweonu, K. (2016) ‘The tree has four or five leaves’: Talawa, Britishness and the first all-Black production of Waiting for Godot in Britain. In: Tucker, D. and McTighe, T., eds. Staging Beckett in Great Britain. London: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama. pp. 141-151 ISBN 9781474240178

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Founded in 1985 by a quartet of ‘fiery’ black women as a response to what they perceived as a lack of representation and creative opportunities for actors of black and ethnic minority (BAME) backgrounds, Talawa Theatre Company has grown to become Britain’s foremost black-led theatre company. Nearly three decades from their creation Talawa has presented a vast array of seminal productions – from work by award-winning Caribbean playwrights to great Africa and Western classics and new Black British plays. Some of the groundbreaking productions by the company include the work of influential playwrights like C.L.R. James, Ola Rotimi, Oscar Wilde, William Shakespeare, Wole Soyinka, Derek Walcott, Arthur Miller, and Samuel Beckett, among many others. Through their insightful and nuanced articulation of the politics of ‘blackness’ Talawa is able to project a unique view of Britishness – better still of a shared humanity and providence - through the work of the aforementioned playwrights, and thus make a valuable contribution to enrich British theatre experience and cultural life.

This essay sets out to explore how Talawa’s 2012 all-black co-production of Beckett’s masterpiece, Waiting for Godot, a production that not only marked the departure of then Artistic Director, Patricia Cumper, from the company she rescued from near failure in 2005. But, as Cumper’s parting gift to the British theatergoing public, it signified a renewal of the company’s commitment to the vision of its founding members, particularly their belief that ‘The good and great work from all cultures belongs to everyone’ (Talawa cited in Igweonu, unpublished). Waiting for Godot was co-produced by the West Yorkshire Playhouse and was directed by Ian Brown, Artistic Director and Joint Chief Executive of West Yorkshire Playhouse. In exploring this Talawa co-production of a play, which at its core deals with the subject of what it means to be human, the essay will also consider the critical reception they received in their UK tour of the production at venues that include The Albany London and The Old Rep Birmingham.

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > ML Literature on music > ML0159 History and criticism
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1560 The performing arts. Show business
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1600 Drama
Divisions: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Music and Performing Arts
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Dr Kene Igweonu
Date Deposited: 06 Jan 2017 14:54
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2017 14:54
URI: https://create.canterbury.ac.uk/id/eprint/15384

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00