About

 

The National Theatre’s Black Plays Archive project was initiated by the playwright and former NT Associate Kwame Kwei-Armah, who expressed a wish to explore and engage with African, Caribbean and black British writers produced in the UK, a number of which had been largely forgotten.

 

The aim of the project is to document the first professional production of every play by black British, African and Caribbean writers in the UK. The Black Plays Archive does not include performance poetry and art, readings, revues, cabaret, recitations, sketches or puppet shows. The project focuses solely on the premieres of these plays and as a result does not provide information for all subsequent productions.

 

Aim

The Black Plays Archive seeks to engage with the discourse on the development of African, Caribbean and black British theatre in the UK. It follows the work of a number of organisations and projects such as ‘Blackgrounds and Blackstage’ (Talawa/V&A), Future Histories, ‘Moving Here’ (National Archives and partners) and Unfinished Histories.

 

The Black Plays Archive defines the use of ‘black’ to refer to playwrights of African and/or Caribbean heritage and covers a wide range of ethnic identities and hugely varied heritage. Ideas on what constitutes Britishness, blackness and culture continue to be fiercely debated and developing a project that begins to map this history in UK inevitably raises more questions than it answers. The Black Plays Archive aims to provide a more effective way of making archival material available and easy to access in order to address the forgotten histories of black playwrights and practitioners in the UK.

 

Resources

The website gives you access to a range of digital resources designed to support the study and revival of plays by black British, African and Caribbean writers produced in the UK. It provides production details for the plays listing information on the cast, crew, and venue, as well as offering biographical and bibliographical information on the playwrights. 

 

Where relevant, each production page contains a Union Catalogue entry. The Union Catalogue lists archival records of productions held in other archives around the UK. Where online catalogues exist we provide a link, and in the absence of an online catalogue, we provide contact details for the archive.

The Featured Content on the site is a selection of media the National Theatre has produced or commissioned to stimulate further interest in the history of black playwrights. Included in this section are audio recordings of scenes from the plays; video interviews with playwrights; essays on production history and on playwrights, styles and genre.

 

Contribute

A number of the production pages provide minimal information on cast, creative teams and archival resources. Printed information on these plays is often difficult to find or does not exist. The research on black playwrights and the development of black theatre is on-going and we are asking users who might have knowledge of the plays or the period (s) in question to contribute to the research via a feedback form which sits on every page.

 

Access

The National Theatre Archive does not hold a physical Black Plays Archive. We have a number of unpublished play texts and manuscripts  and these are clearly listed on the individual production pages. The Black Plays Archive website provides information and contact details for other archives holding materials on African, Caribbean and black British plays and playwrights.