That Black Theatre Podcast

That Black Theatre Podcast logo in blue, black and white

The National Theatre launched the Podcast Series: That Black Theatre Podcast.

Hosted by Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded PhD Student, Nadine Deller, the podcast is a partnership between National Theatre, The Royal Central School for Speech and Drama, University of London and the AHRC London Arts and Humanities Partnership.


From the 28 September, over the course of 12 weekly episodes, Nadine will delve into the Black Plays Archive, discussing the leaders of Black British theatre and the political and social events of the 20th and 21st Century that influenced their work.


Beginning with the earliest black theatre practitioners Una Marson and Errol John, the podcast will discuss the works of these trailblazers and the writers who followed, Mustapha Matura and Alfred Fagon, who wrote against the backdrop of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements both in Britain and America.


The barriers faced by black women playwrights will be debated with the leading academic, Lynette Goddard. With the plays of Valerie Mason-John and Jackie Kay discussed in relation to the under representation of black queer and lesbian experiences on stage.


Nadine Deller will conclude the series with an episode dedicated to Winsome Pinnock, conversations about debbie tucker green and Roy Williams, as well as discussions with lead theatre makers both looking to the past of Black British theatre and to the future, including Mojisola Adebayo and Ola Ince.


Speaking about the podcast Nadine Deller said, “This podcast started as a way to share what I have learnt about black British theatre with as many people as I could. I never learnt about black theatre in school, so this podcast is a celebration of black British theatre and the stories I have found in the archive.


Through a mix of history, interviews, and casual discussion, I hope to show that black theatre is for everyone.” 

That Black Theatre Podcast is available to stream and download for free via Apple podcastsSpotifyAmazon MusicGoogle podcasts, and all other major podcasts platforms.


Listen to Episode 1 of That Black Theatre Podcast In our first episode of That Black Theatre Podcast we talk about the wonderful Black Plays Archive, the focal point of our journey into black theatre history in Britain. We chat to a leading academic and previous manager of the Black Plays Archive, Natasha Bonnelame. We ask Natasha what the Black Plays Archive is, and why it’s important to tell a plurality of black stories on the stage. We talk about who is given access to knowledge and power, and what needs to change in the British theatre industry to represent black experiences.


Listen to Episode 2 of That Black Theatre Podcast - This week we are looking at the 1930s and the first black woman playwright in the Black Plays Archive, the legendary Una Marson, and how she flourished in 1930s Britain. A trailblazer in every sense, Una Marson was a Jamaican poet, playwright, writer, activist. She was also the first black woman to be hired by the BBC. We interview the brilliant academic and novelist, Delia Jarrett-Macauley, about Una Marson’s legacy and two of her plays, ‘At What a Price’ and ‘Pocomania’. Una’s plays talk about religion, gender politics, and racism at a time where black women were rarely given the opportunity to do so. We ask what we might learn from Una’s plays if they were revived today.

You can also listen to the episodes here:

Listen to Episode 3 of That Black Theatre Podcast - This week we are delving into a seminal point in Black British theatre, the 1950s. We look at 'Moon on a Rainbow Shawl' by Errol John, and 'Flesh to a Tiger' by Barry Reckord.


Listen to Episode 4 of That Black Theatre Podcast - This week we are looking at the tumultuous 1960s, a time of civil unrest, civil rights, anti-colonial struggle, and international conflict. We talk about the work of Barry Reckord and Wole Soyinka amidst the political, social and cultural contexts of Britain, the USA and Nigeria during the 1960s. Wole Soyinka’s ‘The Lion and the Jewel’ and Barry Reckord’s ‘Skyvers’ discuss the contrasting social and political issues affecting people in South London and Nigeria respectively. While Reckord battles with class and gender amongst working-class youth, Soyinka critiques colonisation and celebrates traditional Yoruba culture. We delve into the significant work of these two, theatrical giants, and ask if we should bring these plays back to British theatre.


Listen to Episode 5 of That Black Theatre Podcast - This week we are looking at the 1970s, a time of resistance and rebellion. We talk about the work of Mustapha Matura and Alfred Fagon amidst the realities of police brutality, anti-racist politics and Black Power in Britain and the USA. Mustapha Matura’s ‘Welcome Home Jacko’ and Alfred Fagon’s ‘The Death of a Black Man’ discuss Black politics, disenfranchisement, Black masculinity, Pan-Africanism and the appropriation of Black cultures during the 1970s. We discuss the legacies of these two great writers, with archival recordings from the Black Plays Archive.


Listen to Episode 6 of That Black Theatre Podcast - This week we are looking at the 1980s, a time when there was a ‘boom’ in Black theatre production in Britain. 


Listen to Episode 7 of That Black Theatre Podcast - This week, we discuss the position of Black women playwrights in the 1980s and 1990s. We talk to Professor Lynette Goddard (Royal Holloway University) about the politics of representation and Black lesbian and queer playwrights, including Jackie Kay and Valerie Mason-John. We talk about Jackie Kay’s Chiaroscuro, which looks at sisterhood and the plurality of Black women’s experiences. We also include a clip and discussion from Valerie Mason-John’s play, Sin Dykes, which discusses inter-racial lesbian relationships, BDSM and legacies of racial trauma.


Listen to Episode 8 of That Black Theatre Podcast - This week we have a really exciting episode: an interview and discussion dedicated to the brilliant and prominent playwright and academic, Winsome Pinnock. Winsome is one of the best-known playwrights working in Britain today. We were lucky enough to speak to her about what it means to be a Black playwright, the history of her work in theatre, how the British theatre industry has changed and what more work needs to be done, and her latest play, Rockets and Blue Lights.  Sometimes referred to as the 'godmother' of Black British theatre, Winsome's plays are far-reaching in the themes they explore, spanning a variety of different political, historical and social issues; from drug trafficking to racial profiling, to migration and gender politics, to the Atlantic slave trade. Her awards include: The George Devine Award, Pearson Plays on Stage Award for best play, Unity Theatre Trust Award, Susan Smith Blackburn Prize Special Commendation, and Alfred Fagon Award for best new play 2018.


Listen to Episode 9 of That Black Theatre Podcast - This week we discuss the question of whether there was a ‘renaissance’ in Black theatre during the 2000s and the work of debbie tucker green, with the prominent academic, Professor Lynette Goddard. We talk about the unprecedented mainstream presence of several Black playwrights in Britain during the 2000s, with specific focus on debbie tucker green’s play ‘random’, which details a day in the life of a Black British family which is tragically shaken through a random act of violence. Thanks so much to Lynette for offering your time and wisdom to this episode!


Listen to Episode 10 of That Black Theatre Podcast - This week we're continuing our discussion of the 2000s. We talk about how theatre can address the 'state of the nation',  through the work of the brilliant playwright, Roy Williams. We were lucky enough to have an interview with Roy, who brilliantly discusses his plays 'Sing Yer Hearts Out for the Lads', 'Death of England' and 'Death of England: Delroy'.  We discuss the connections between nationalism, football, race, class, and Brexit, which Roy's plays tackle with wit, humour and realism. Born in London, Roy Williams is an award-winning playwright. He was the first winner of the Alfred Fagon Award for his play, 'Starstruck'. His third play for the Royal Court, 'Fallout', won the 2003 South Bank Show Arts Council Decibel Award.  He is a prolific writer, whose most recent play with Clint Dyer, 'Death of England: Delroy', discusses what it means to be a Black British man in 2020, in the wake of political and social upheaval.


Listen to Episode 11 of That Black Theatre Podcast - This week we have a really special guest, Mojisola Adebayo. We discuss ‘Afri-Queer Theatre’, Black queer stories in theatre, climate change and colonisation. Mojisola discusses their play Moj of the Antarctic, which was performed at the Lyric Hammersmith theatre in 2006 and Wind/Rush Generations. Mojisola Adebayo is a writer, playwright, poet, performer, workshop leader, facilitator, and educator. Moj is a prolific theatre-maker, and has worked on projects all around the globe, including, Brazil, Britain, India, Malawi, Norway, Palestine, Sweden, South Africa, Syria, the USA, and Zimbabwe. They have written many plays, which have been published in Mojisola Adebayo: Plays One: 1 and Mojisola Adebayo: Plays Two: 2.


Listen to Episode 12 of That Black Theatre Podcast - This week we look at the last decade of Black British theatre and ask: have things really changed for Black theatre practitioners? We focus on two different plays: Natasha Gordon’s Nine Night, which is the first play on record by a Black British woman to be transferred to London’s West End, and Jasmine Lee-Jones’ Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner. We talk about how Nine Night captured the imaginations of both Black and white audiences, portraying three generations of a Black British family in the wake of the 2018 Windrush ‘scandal’, while discussing death, racial politics and funeral rituals in Black communities that are often misunderstood in 21st century Britain. We were lucky enough to interview Jasmine Lee-Jones about her play Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner, which brings the fetishization of the Black female body and the appropriation of Black cultures to the forefront, all through the prism of Black women’s lives in the digital age of social media.


Listen to Episode 13 of That Black Theatre Podcast - In the final episode of Series 1, we have a very special guest, the exceptional theatre director Ola Ince. We talk about her past and upcoming work, the future of Black theatre and what she wants to see change in the British theatre industry. Ola Ince is a director and dramaturg, who is an Associate Director at the Royal Court. She has directed many brilliant plays, including Appropriate at the Donmar Warehouse, The Convert and Dutchman at the Young Vic. Thank you so much Ola for your generosity and for speaking with us!


Music: African Moon by John Bartmann


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