Talawa Theatre Company
Talawa Theatre Company was founded in London in 1986 by Jamaican-born Yvonne Brewster, Mona Hammond, Carmen Munroe and Inigo Espejel, becoming the UK's most prominent black theatre company. It has produced award-winning plays from and about the African diaspora and has championed reinterpretations of classical British pieces.
The name Talawa comes from Jamaican patois, meaning "small but feisty". The company's mission is to provide opportunities for black actors, to use black culture to enrich British theatre, and to enlarge theatre audiences among the black community. The company also runs workshops for schools and colleges.
Yvonne Brewster and the other founders were galvanised by the existence of other black theatre companies at the time such as Temba, Black Theatre Cooperative (later Nitro) and Tara Arts to apply for a grant from the Greater London Council's Race Equality Unit. The £80,000 they received covered the cost of their first production in 1986, The Black Jacobins by C. L. R. James, which had not been performed in England for fifty years, and never before with an all-black cast. Also in 1986, Yvonne Brewster directed Dennis Scott's An Echo in the Bone, and in 1988 O Babylon! by Derek Walcott and Galt McDermot. In the following years Talawa put on a wide range of productions, mainly by established African and Caribbean writers, including Wole Soyinka, James Baldwin, Michael Abbensetts and Trevor Rhone.
In March 2006, Patricia Cumper, one of Jamaica’s leading contemporary playwrights, became the company's artistic director, and in early 2012 she handed over to director Michael Buffong. Previous artistic directors, following the departure of Yvonne Brewster in 2003, have included Paulette Randall and the US-born Bonnie Greer.
Talawa's Mission Statement in 2007 proclaimed: "Talawa Theatre Company is Britain's foremost Black-led Theatre Company. We give voice to the Black British experience and we nurture, develop and support talent. We cultivate Black audiences and audiences for Black work. In so doing, we enrich British Theatre."
53 - 55 East Road London N1 6AH
- Nisha Obano, "Talawa Theatre Company". Encyclopedia of AfroEuropean Studies.
- "Black & Asian Performance in Britain 1970 onwards - Talawa Theatre Company". V&A.]
- "Michael Buffong appointed as Artistic Director", 13 October 2011.
- Talawa blog.
- Talawa Theatre Company website.
- Nosheen Iqbal, "Talawa theatre company: the fights of our lives", The Guardian, 29 May 2011.
- "Talawa Theatre Company" (Contributor: Nisha Obano). Encyclopedia of AfroEuropean Studies.
- Records of Talawa Theatre Company, 1962-2007. Victoria and Albert Museum: Theatre Collections.
- "Talawa Turns 25! Renowned black theatre company celebrates its Silver Jubilee" The Voice, 9 October 2011.