- Written By 10Melanin Team
10 Black British Theatre Companies
You might be surprised to hear that Black actors make up 14 % of musicals on the stage in the UK, considering we make just up 3 % of the UK (44% of London) ... that doesn't seem too bad. Also, compared to TV and Radio where just 4% of actors are non-white, it seems that theatre is more diverse. Unfortunately, that is wrong. While we're more likely to be hired to perform in musicals, the audience for these musicals is mostly white, with 92 % of audience members identifying as white. Whether this is down to accessibility, lack of cultural and diverse shows or generally not feeling comfortable amongst a majority white audience, there are some people who have founded or are leading theatre companies to combat this. These companies not only will guarantee that you a safe and positive space to enjoy a show, but also will tell stories with us and a Black audience in mind.
10. High Rise
Black Theatre Live
High Rise is a theatre collective whose aim is to use inner-city memories, culture and music to provide a voice for those so often unheard. The collective has produced many acclaimed shows and experiences, that have sparked conversation in communities across London. They take pride in working with and for disaffected young people in hopes that it will promote positivity, inclusivity and creativity for those who need it. Their style is energetic and innovative, often using Hip Hop & Grime music as a medium to tell honest stories from multicultural backgrounds, creating groundbreaking Theatre.
9. Kuumba Nia Arts
Kuumba Nia Arts is an Oxford arts company that shares African and Caribbean heritage and experiences through the medium of dance, theatre & storytelling. It was founded in 2008, by Amantha Edmead, and has since been involved in multiple projects that includes; a one-year residency at Pegasus Theatre, providing monthly free screenings of Black cinema, and collaborating with the Unlock the Chains Collective to look at the hidden histories of Windrush.
8. Theatre Peckham
Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation
Theatre Peckham is both a cultural venue and an academy, that for over 30 years, has provided a safe space for children to explore, learn and perform. The theatre aims to boost self esteem and raise ambition in all of the children along with making theatre more accessible by welcoming students from all backgrounds. The venue itself boasts a state of the art, 200-seat theatre and studios allowing a platform for innovative productions that push the boundaries of form and use new and exciting ways tell stories.
7. Strongback Productions
Founded in 2013 by Patricia Cumper and Dominique Le Gendre, Stongback Productions creates performances and events inspired by the personal lives of African and Caribbean women and men. Embracing the complex yet vibrant reality of diverse Britain and drawing inspiration communities from around the world has allowed the company to produce some truly inspiring productions.
6. Beyond Face
Beyond Face was founded in 2015, by Alix Harris, who after working in Plymouth and running a series of workshops, recognised the need for a diverse company in the area. The performance company's mission is to raise the profile and visibility of Black, Asian artists, young people and communities through various programmes that include workshops, training and support. Another aspect of the company is creating high quality and visual performances which tour across the UK.
5. Strictly Arts
Strictly Arts is a Black-led company from the West Midlands, directed by Corey Campbell and Henry Bays. By creating work that is engaging, thought-provoking and accessible to audiences around the world, the company aims is to turn conventional theatre on its head. Giving untold stories of the community a much needed platform and Black people in theatre a safe space to express themselves through performance.
Utopia Theatre Company was founded in Sheffield in 2012, by Mojisola Elufowoju and is a leading voice in African Theatre, both digital and IRL. Dedicated to dispelling stereotypes and encouraging authentic voices from the African Diaspora by giving the rich cultural heritage of Africa’s theatre canon a platform. By combining two cultural theatre traditions, that of the African world and the Western world, the company is able to create modern, artistic and most importantly diverse work.
Eclipse is a leading Black-led touring company, that focuses on delivering diverse programming in theatre, film and radio across the UK. They aim to create enriching and though-provoking work using the insights and experiences of Black British people of African and Caribbean backgrounds to tell stories that reflect the country. Eclipse more recently created a three-year project named Slate: Black. Arts. World. which supported Black artists in the North to work regionally, nationally and internationally which helped create long lasting careers in the independent sector.
Founded in 2009, Tangle is a theatre company that showcases African and Caribbean artistry and stories that might not otherwise be seen. Their work has enabled over 100 isolated and disenfranchised communities and more than 2,000 professionals access training in the performing arts industry. As a company they aim to bridge the gap between different cultures and produce ‘theatre that makes a difference’, offering a vibrant and positive vision for the stage.
In 1986, Talawa was founded by Yvonne Brewster, Carmen Munroe, Mona Hammond and Inigo Espejel, due to the lack of opportunities available for Black actors. The company prides itself on championing Black excellence in theatre and nurturing both new and old artists of African or Caribbean heritage. With over 50 award-winning touring productions to date, the company has become one of the most important Black founded theatre companies in the UK.