September 19, 2014

Black British Play Archive

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Screenshot BPAPlayCo is in the thick of rehearsals for generations by debbie tucker green, one of Britain’s most innovative dramatists. Regarding her plays and their context, debbie tends to keep quiet, rarely giving interviews and preferring to let her plays speak for themselves. British critics have compared her writing to the late Sarah Kane’s, but debbie cites as influences Jamaican poet Louise Bennett, songwriters Jill Scott and Lauryn Hill, and African-American playwright Ntozake Shange.  Debbie is also part of a rich tradition of Black British playwrights, British writers of African or Caribbean descent. To honor and explore this extensive body of work, the National Theatre launched the Black Play Archive in 2009. The project was initiated by former NT associate Kwame Kwei-Armah, also one of Britain’s premiere playwrights and now the Artistic Director of Baltimore Center Stage in the U.S.  Originally managed by Black British play expert Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway, the site aims to explore the discourse and evolution of Black British theatre. The archive traces its development from 1909’s The Lilly of Bermuda by Ernest A. Trimmingham, through its ascendency in the late 1960s – 1970s and Renaissance in the late 1990s to the present day. This exhaustive digital catalog chronicles the premiere production of every play by a Black British playwright, allowing users to search by writer, decade, play, company, or theatre, and features video interviews with writers, audio excerpts from the plays and essays about plays, playwrights, productions and genre. In the introduction to the archive Kwei-Armah explains that the archive “offers access to a wealth of forgotten material and to enable users to explore the history of and engage with the development of Black theatre in Britain.”

The site’s trove of interviews and essays includes articles regarding:  an overview of the Black British theatre from World War II through the 1970s by journalist and theatre critic  Colin Chambers; Dr. Michael Pearce’s compelling discussion on the influence of the U.S. Black Power movement and African American theatre on Black British theatre; and Lynette Goodard’s take on how the British Arts Council’s cultural diversity initiatives led to a resurgence of Black British theatre at the turn of the twenty-first century. (Ms. Goodard also authored the chapter dedicated to debbie tucker green in Modern British Playwriting.) We hope you’ll indulge your curiosity about the history of Black British playwriting and check out this amazing resource.




Author: buzzadmin
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