Theatre company launches scheme to increase black presence on stage

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A London theatre company will be launching a 3 year scheme to get more of the UK’s black stories on stage.

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Eclipse Theatre Company, headed by artistic director Dawn Walton, will launch Revolution Mix next year, and will be working with a selection of black writers to bring our often untold stories to life.

The scheme will culminate with a yearlong ‘black theatre festival’ which will see the new plays performed across the country.

In addition to the plays, which aim to be performed at both mid-scale and low-scale theatres, the scheme will also call on the 10 black writers to write a radio play as well as two short films. One of the pieces will be written with an all-female cast in mind.

Eclipse Theatre Company, which was formed by Walton in 2010, is a black led theatre company which aims to “use the Black British experience to create new work to enrich the cannon of British theatre.”  The company has worked on several projects including this year’s production of Sizwe Bande is Dead alongside The Young Vic.

“Revolution Mix is about doing not talking,” Walton said. “When the subject of diversity comes up – people gather in rooms and talk. If you sit in that room you will hear more reasons why things can’t change than why they can. But there is no question that there is an appetite for change. Revolution Mix is what we are all going to DO.”

The project is supported by a £249,141 Exceptional Award from the Arts Council which ‘enables the Arts Council to respond to new and ambitious ideas from the sector that will make a significant additional contribution to delivering its strategic vision of great art and culture for everyone.’

On the award, Walton stated: Eclipse Theatre Company is proud to be receiving an Exceptional Award from Arts Council England. It is encouraging to be heard understood and supported in this way. Revolution Mix is about doing not talking. We hear it when an audience member comes up to thank us for bringing black work to their local venue. We hear it when a black writer in the regions contacts us because they don’t feel there is a place for them in their local venue. We hear it when a regional venue tells us they don’t know any local black writers. Revolution Mix is Eclipse Theatre Company’s response to all of them. We know where the black talent is because they contact our company and we know what the missing British stories are because they are our stories.”

Neil Darlison, Theatre, Arts Council England, added: “The Arts Council is proud to support Eclipse Theatre Company’s new project. It is initiatives such as these that we believe will help people to engage with a new and different approach to diversity in the arts – an area that we are developing through the creative case for diversity –  in order to achieve our goal of delivering great art to everyone. ‘Revolution Mix’ will create a much needed critical mass of new theatre writing, drawing on the Black British experience and delivered nationally by Black British artists. It presents a significant opportunity to create new work with insight into Black British culture and we believe will have wide and popular appeal. This is an important initiative that will not only enrich the British theatrical cannon but will provide opportunities for stories to be told and to move in new and exciting ways.”