Paid opportunity to help develop audiences in Sheffield!

Are you interested in theatre and the arts in Sheffield? Do you have close ties to your local networks? Utopia Theatre are looking for ​2 ​Audience Development Ambassadors to come on board and help spread the word about our exciting upcoming project, ​Shadows in Different Shades.

We’re looking for people who are passionate about theatre and the arts in Sheffield and want to work with us to build strong ties with individuals and communities throughout the city. Most of all we want to make lasting relationships with our Audience Development Ambassadors and work together to reach our target audience who may experience barriers preventing them from accessing our work.

You can learn more about Utopia here: ​http://www.utopiatheatre.co.uk

A little more about the project:

Shadows in Different Shades is a new play by by writer Oladipo Agboluaje, developed in partnership with Utopia Theatre Company. Inspired by Moji Kareem’s life and that of her mother and daughter, the piece deals with what it is to be a daughter and a mother; a story of migration and shifting identity. ‘Shadow in Different Shades’ is a compelling and thought-provoking tale of dreams and broken promises, of hope, optimism and resilience in the face of harrowing circumstances.​ ​The play will address a whole range of issues including love, loss, struggle with self and the relationship between religion and mental health, position of women in society, religious freedom, miscarriage and female genital mutilation. Nigerian music will play a vital role in the piece. There will be a reading of Shadows in Different Shades in the Crucible Studio on​ 24th May 2018.

We would need you to be available to attend a meeting with Artistic Director Moji Kareem on ​21 March, 2018​ – it’s here that she will tell you all you need to know to get going.


Interested in applying?

Sound like something you might like to be involved in? The application process is simple, and you don’t have to have worked professionally in theatre before. Just answer the following questions and send over your responses, alongside a copy of your CV.

● What is the last thing you saw in a theatre that you really enjoyed, and why?
● What is the first thing you’d do to start developing audiences in your community and in your networks?

Please remember to include your name, contact details and post code on your responses, and keep responses to a maximum of 2 sides of A4. To apply, please email Moji Kareem (Artistic Director) on ​utopiatiata@gmail.com​, attaching your responses to the questions, making sure that you have included your contact details.

If you have questions at all, please feel free to email Moji on the above address or give us a call on ​07584 243464.

Deadline:​ 12 March​ 2018, 5pm.

We look forward to hearing from you.

We are more than labels

A poem about finding our journey and purpose with our differences.

Who am I?

I am more than,
Labels and words.

I am more than,
Terms and meanings.

I am more than my:
Ethnicity,
Background,
Class,
Sexuality,
Religion,
Gender,
Class,
And appearance.

I am more than,
We are more than.

The power of words,
Can cut through metal,
And stitch broken hearts,
Millions of words,
Float around,
To hurt and break,
To heal and conquer.

All words,
In speech and dialogue,
and interactions.

My words, our words,
Unite us,
In a social equilibrium.

Written by @Shazia__Bbi

The Duchess of Malfi Phase 1- ‘Iyalode of Eti’ -The Creative Journey.

A good idea will keep you awake during the morning, but a great idea will keep you awake during the night.

Marilyn vos Savant

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Having good ideas is common currency for many of us in the creative industries. Most of them come to nothing, but sometimes the idea to create something becomes so strong you’re compelled to do something about it.

The Duchess of Malfi idea started out of a final year project I did at university directing sections of the play in my second year- Introduction to Directing Theatre. This play, the finest Jacobean drama outside the Shakespeare canon, is not only a gem of poetry and wit, but also a meditation on the vanity of public life and the inevitability of death. The satiric prose is filled with such poetic imagery and the subtle verse is so sharp in its commentary that each individual use of language complements all the others. I was surprised to find in such a merciless play so much goodness and such tender love scenes. Perhaps that is part of the reason why, in spite of the absurdities of the plot and the decadent horror of many of its incidents, this play left me with a sweet feeling of sadness and an increased reverence for struggling humanity. It resonated so much with my own culture that I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I discussed the idea with some of my peers and other artists. They were really positive and this gave me the confidence to keep going. Even when my first Arts Council application was rejected, I knew I had to keep banging my head against that door until it opens.

I identified quite early on that any success in transposing the play to Nigeria will mean finding a writer who is conversant with the world and is willing to work closely with me to realise my vision of the play.

To make this dream a reality requires money. Applying for funding is not one for the faint hearted.  It’s a difficult, time consuming and stressful process, which, to be honest, can take some of the energy and enthusiasm out of the project itself. On the plus side, it forces a level of introspection and planning that probably wouldn’t happen in any other circumstance.

I wouldn’t say that I am an African theatre practitioner. I have directed different types of theatre including, devised, street theatre, theatre of the absurd and physical theatre. However, I could sense a gap in the market. Africans living in the Diaspora are keen and hungry for cultural content and desire a vehicle of identification with Africa. This audience particularly enjoys the envisaged multi-disciplinary approach to this work. They are desperate for things they can be proud of.  As our Musical director Juwon Ogungbe rightly pointed out “African period dramas have been largely absent from the London (and by extension, UK) stages for a considerable amount of time, mainly due to the diminished energy emanating from companies such as Collective Artistes, Badejo Arts and others. Most UK African based theatre productions in recent times have tended to focus on the colonial and post colonial eras. It has been exciting engaging creatively with a new play that is addressing themes relevant to the values of our forbears”.

On the 18th and 20th of August, we held workshops that featured in the ‘Youth Takeover Festival’ at Rich Mix- London. The workshop was also life streamed.

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The workshop explored the following:

The questions every writer should ask themselves when they choose adaptation material.

Selecting material suitable for adaptation

The different types of adaptation

How the process of an adaptation differs from that of an original playwriting process

Acquiring the rights for what you wish to adapt and the legality, royalty and credit issues of an adaptation of work by another person

How to stay faithful to the source while creating something new.

We were interested in the reasons people had for attending the workshops and their expectations. Quite a number of people expected the workshops to be intimidating. They were pleasantly surprised to find the workshop a safe place full of creatives who, while talented and passionate, also had their vulnerabilities. This enabled everybody to come out of their respective shells and share their ideas.

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Debo Oluwatuminu used his experience of adapting the ‘Duchess of Malfi’ into ‘Iyalode of Eti’ as a concrete example of the adaptation process. One participant said that the workshop “demystified the adaptation process and the writer, making the process accessible to aspiring writers”. 

A participant described the workshop as a “spiritual experience”. Debo did not stick to teaching about the formalities of structure within texts. He acknowledged the importance of discipline. Lessons like not waiting for inspiration but going out and fighting for it – even if you make a lot of mistakes, or create a lot of “bad writing” along the way were vital. 

We were pleased to hear that young people that initially had no ideas for adaptations left inspired and ready to work on something specific. 

 

Writing Workshop Feedback

Isabel Brodie -‘Today was incredibly interesting and helpful to me as a writer. The workshop went into more depth and covered more topics than I expected. I left with a burning itch to go home and work and tell stories which can only be a good thing’.

Rex Okere-‘ I found the session really useful as it thought me a lot about how classic stories should be adapted to either stage plays or screen plays. This also gave me an insight into dimensions in which well known adapted stage plays or screen plays have been taken into’.

Sarah Agah- ‘Today I learned to actually write! I’ve been waiting for the muse. Debo inspired me to be brave!’

Amaka Ejizu -‘I learned to take myself out of my comfort zone and not censor myself’.

Cynthia Otolorin-This session was extremely helpful in terms of the steps taken in the beginning stages of writing. I also learned the importance of fuelling oneself with enough research content to the point of comfort ability before starting a project’.

 

Play Exploration Workshop 

On 7 September, we started a one week ensemble based collaborative process involving the writer, eight professional actors, six singers/dancers, a movement director, a music composer, stage manager, sound designer, lighting designer, Assistant Director, Two trainee Directors and a percussionist.

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During the process, major questions and choices were interrogated and raised about casting, staging, the text, playing length, performance aesthetic, rehearsal methodology, speaking to the audience, the comedic in a tragedy, costumes, choreography, presentation, use of entrances and exits, clarity of plot, staging and so on. Important question was raised. What constitutes Contemporary African Theatre? 

I started with a play of one hundred and thirty seven pages and ended up with a workshop version trimmed to Fifty four pages. There were many unknowns with this project and many questions remain unanswered and unexplored during this development phase of the project. Working out what key elements of the story are there, what’s missing, what needs to be taken away and what needs to be added. It’s a creative adventure in itself…



It’s been an exhilarating experience having other artists and collaborators in the rehearsal room. Trying to keep our wits about us, so that we are ready to go in different directions and try different things, so that we can ask “What if…” and run with it for a while.
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We had the opportunity to explore the language of the play and varying ways of telling the story. I wanted a playing ground where actors are able to experiment and find ways of making what is ultimately a very sad story an enjoyable and entertaining piece of theatre.

It was very useful to have live music with us in the rehearsal room. I would have loved to have had the time to integrate music more from the outset of the initial idea. It would have been great to have had the opportunity think more about the tempo and rhythm and be able to work with the composer and the ensemble to create scenes and characters that fit the mood that the songs create.

roger drum

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In hindsight it would have been useful to have a longer period for the workshop to explore the play freely without the pressure of creating a piece of finished work. This would have meant that we could take risks in the work we created, and the outcomes of the research been more fruitful and creative. The experience gave me an insight into ways of developing my working methods as a company, as well as new material.

The week felt rushed with pressure to have something solid to share with a paying audience at the end of the week. Before the week started, we had spent the months before researching the world of the play and collating factual and visual information about the world of the play. We used all of this as inspiration to propel us into the world of the play.

The R&D was full of surprise and delight! The most surprising and enjoyable part were watching the actors bringing the play to life. It was exciting to see characters come to life; we really enjoyed sharing the play with the audience. Through these sharings we discovered that the play appeals to both adults and children.

The process also afforded the writer the opportunity to learn enough from the process about what to do in making the full text more concise.

Play workshop Exploration Feedback

Maddie Appiah- Actor

‘I had an incredible time working on this project!  I had the opportunity to work with some very experienced artists and African theatre practitioners’.

Juwon Ogungbe- Music director and Composer

‘You had a good atmosphere in the rehearsal rooms and there was a certain amount of skills sharing and passing on of practices from practitioners of various age groups that doesn't happen enough in UK Black Theatre nowadays.

 Patrice Naiambana- Actor

‘I was offered a professional development opportunity - to practice African Theatre which is extremely rare in the UK. I learnt a something about Yoruba customs and culture.  I learnt a lot from watching the other actors approach their roles. I had only recently come out of hospital and not been in an ensemble context for 3 years, so was ring rusty. This intense workshop provided essential practice. I was also able to observe from within the process a similar approach to intensely prepared sharings which I have been facilitating for the last 8 years. It was refreshing to experience being directed in front of the camera so to speak, understanding better how actors engage with Directors. I learnt a physical and rhythmic strategy to learning an unfamiliar language. I appreciated the collaborative spirit, the freedom to explore and the intensity of a short period of exploration’.

Funke Adeleke- Singer and dancer

‘I enjoyed the process thoroughly from audition stage to rehearsals and the workshop. The organisation was thorough, however I would have preferred a two weeks rehearsal period as opposed to one week. I feel two weeks would have produced a much clearer visual for the cast as well as the production team especially wardrobe. Working with you came at a significant time for me as I knew I would be starting courses for Writing for Theatre and Performance Classes at Clean Break this month. I started this week and I am enjoying being in an all women only environment. I know I have a very feminist belief so I enjoy working with women who are empowering to other women, who inspire other women and still have pride in their appearance. All of which you embody and epitomise. As an African woman in the Diaspora, this is extra challenging, so I was so glad to be in a surrounding with my sisters before actually immersing myself into the course’

We had two sold out performances of Iyalode of Eti at Richmix on 12 September and Arcola Theatre on 13 September. There is no doubt whatsoever that our appreciation of the play and our ability to go forward has been encouraged by the feedback of the audience. 

Audience Feedback

‘It was a great introduction to African theatre. It made me keen to find out more about it’

‘Come and experience a visceral and compelling show’

‘Vibrant, intelligent, enjoyable. Amazing achievement after one week’

‘I would definitely recommend it. It has something for everyone’

‘Deep, Ethically rich. Poetic and Humorous’ 

‘Go and see it and learn something about Yoruba’

‘Great story and insight into Nigerian culture and Mythology’

‘It is so good to see Nigerian theatre. British theatre needs more of this. I think a longer time to prepare will enable the actors to bring out the unique Yoruba quality to the production more’

‘Please keep this on. We need to see more of this type of play’

‘Epic story telling. Need for simplicity and clarity in characters and background of who’s and why’s’

‘Would Love to see the full production’

‘Fantastic and powerful production’

‘What a great achievement by creative director Moji Kareem and her excellent cast in transcribing the Duchess of Malfi so authentically and convincingly into pre-colonial Yorubaland - I actually preferred it to the recent Globe version. Hopefully it will soon get a long extended theatrical run.’

‘I think Iyalode of Eti is intelligently yet sensitively written and a powerful reflection of human stories. The effective and creative use of the stage area by the passionate and talented cast was in tune with the inspired directing. The production is heartfelt, thought provoking and professional in its execution. Deserves support and definitely worth experiencing’

‘It was great to see your fantastic presentation’

Anna Coombs (Artistic Director Tangle Theatre) -

 ‘A Promising, original idea. Script requires enormous distilling for clarity whilst lyrical / movement vocabulary require a more thought through integration. A good start to a worthwhile exploration. Clearly a lot of hard work has been undertaken by writer and director. With more investigative and exploratory time away from the prying eyes of an audience, further gems are potentially there for discovery.

Femi Elufowoju Jr-Actor and Director 

What Next?

The next stage of the project involves reflection followed by further research into possible partnership/ funding, touring and producing opportunities.





 

New vistas for African British Theatre – Iyalode of Eti – Juwon Ogungbe

Recently, I had the pleasure of collaborating with a long standing friend and fine colleague of mine, Andile Sotiya, the choreographer and dance tutor, in devising and running workshop auditions for an ensemble of young dancer-singers, to perform in a new scratch performance run of a new play set in Africa.

Iyalode of Eti – the play in question, is a reimagining of Webster’s Jacobean classic The Duchess of Malfi, set in pre-colonial Yoruba land, which is part of modern Nigeria. The play is currently in a research and development phase, staged by Utopia Theatre Company. At the end of a week of creative exploration and rehearsal, there will be two scratch performances of excerpts from the play, at Rich Mix and The Arcola Theatre, both in London, on the 12th and 13th of September, respectively.

African period dramas have been largely absent from the London (and by extension, UK) stages for a considerable amount of time, mainly due to the diminished energy emanating from companies such as Collective Artistes, Badejo Arts and others. Most UK African based theatre productions in recent times have tended to focus on the colonial and post colonial eras. It is therefore, exciting to be able to engage creatively with a new play that is addressing themes relevant to the values of our forbears.

In my role as the composer and music director for this project, I was not sure that there would be many emerging young performers with the flair and wherewithal to handle the demands of this type of work with oomph and poise. I am pleased to report that I was thrilled by the talents of the young performers that attended the workshop auditions at Rich Mix and I sense that the rest of the creative team felt the same as I did.

I would like to thank Corrine Bougaard and Richard Wilson of Union Dance as well as Suzann McLean Robinson of Young and Talented, for helping to attract such high quality performers to the workshop auditions.

The scratch performances, due to happen at Rich Mix (12th September) and Arcola Theatre (13th September), are showing signs of excellent promise. Utopia Theatre is about to bring energy, magic and luminous electricity back to African theatre on London stages.

 

Musical Director Juwon Ogungbe:

Juwon Ogungbe is an inspiring and well respected musician, singer, composer and band leader from London, of Nigerian heritage.

Placing African music at the heart of his work, Juwon also incorporates pop, jazz and classical music into his expressive range.

Juwon’s concert and music theatre compositions consistently attract interest from theatre and dance practitioners. Commissions include music for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Union Dance and the Southbank Centre amongst many others. Life Force Music – Juwon’s debut album, released to wide acclaim in 2012 is available via  www.juwonogungbe.com.

 

The AD’s Blog

My name is Emma Copland. I am a freelance director and facilitator, based in Northern Ireland.  I got involved with Utopia Theatre after searching for theatre opportunities in London and finding the Assistant Director post advertised on their Facebook page. I thought the project looked amazing and that there would be so much I could learn from it. So I applied! (and quickly got to work researching…)  

I had studied Webster’s play at school and could tell from a brief internet search on pre-colonial Yoruba that there were interesting parallels. By the time I was offered the job I was hooked. I immersed myself in Yoruba and Nigerian facts, web searches and culture, soon finding that I already knew a tiny bit that I had forgotten about. I remembered seeing some traditional ceremonial costumes and Yoruba artefacts when I was in New York a couple of years ago at the American Museum of Natural History www.amnh.org and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art www.metmuseum.org. I scoured the web for maps, context and any exhibitions that could help me. I found a photograph exhibition in Belfast of Nigerian people – The MAC, Belfast Pieter Hugo www.pieterhugo.com with some of his work from ‘This Must Be the Place’ and ‘The Hyena and Other Men’ www.museomagazine.com/THE-HYENA-AND-OTHER-MEN.  Although this isn’t the world we are creating in the play, I find it helps me to surround myself with as much as I can so I have lots of knowledge to draw from!

Research broadened to developing mailing lists and contact databases for events listings, audience development and workshop participants as well as some promotional work on social media; adding my own contacts to the mailing lists.

Then came the best bit for me, script work. I read through the workshop script (abridged version for the scratch performance), to create a glossary of Yoruba words where the meaning was unclear. I was surprised to see how many place names and names of deities that I recognised from the little research I had done. The writer had helped with context and some explanation within the script.

                     

 

 

 

 

Opportunity knocks but once!

My name is Zoë and I am 21 years old. I recently graduated from The University of Nottingham where I studied English. I am now back in London (my home town) working on ‘Iyalode of Eti’ and a few other projects.

I have known the writer of the script, Debo Oluwatuminu all of my life, as he and my parents were friends long before I came along. From time to time, Debo would give me a draft of whatever script he was working on at the time and ask for my feedback. A few weeks ago, he did the same with a script titled ‘Iyalode of Eti’. He explained that he was working on a Yoruba adaptation of ‘The Duchess of Malfi’. This was my introduction to this project. At this point in time I had definitely heard about ‘The Duchess of Malfi’ but I hadn’t read it – yet.

So I started to make my way through the script. Whilst it made for good reading, I didn’t think that my relationship with the script would develop further than supporting Debo by seeing the shared reading in September. Debo called a few days after and told me about the Assistant Director vacancy. I was initially frightened as I did not think that I had much experience, but I thought that it was worth a go even if I made a fool of myself, because the project sounded so interesting.

As part of my preparation process for the interview, I read both ‘The Duchess of Malfi’ and ‘Iyalode of Eti’. I chose to read them at the same time. After finishing Act 1 of ‘The Duchess of Malfi’, I would turn to Act 1 of ‘Iyalode of Eti’ and so on.

I really appreciate the fact that the story is set in pre-colonial Yorubaland because, it allows us to explore a culture that I did not read much about in school. I am proud to see that pre-colonial Yoruba society was so advanced and sophisticated that it is able to parallel the society that is depicted in ‘The Duchess of Malfi’.

I also loved how easy it was to infer meaning from the text despite the Yoruba vocabulary. Even though I am half Yoruba, I am (sadly) not fluent in the language. I was initially concerned that I would be alienated from the Iyalode’s world. Fortunately, I still understood the script as meaning was embedded within the text.