Amplifying Black voices

We welcomed our first guest artists to Inside Out, our digital drama club for older LGBTQ+ people last Friday: Actors Jahvel Hall and Oseloka Obi and theatre-maker Vicky Olusanya (who was sitting in ahead of joining a session in a few weeks’ time).

We’d been planning to start introducing our guest artists later this ‘term’ but the urgency of the Black Lives Matter protests led to a change of plan. So we asked Jahvel and Oseloka to bring texts to perform by Black writers that connected with them and talk about why.

Jahvel performed a speech from Paul Boakye’s Boy With Beer, a play about a relationship between two black gay men that has been revived just once since it premiered in 1992. We’d not heard of it before, and everything Jahvel said about it – even his criticisms – made it sound more fascinating and deserving of a much higher profile than it has currently. Good on The King’s Head Theatre for reviving it in 2016.

Oseloka chose a speech from Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Wig Out!, a show he’s been obsessed by since a teacher introduced it to his class in school after its London premiere at the Royal Court in 2009. It was one of the “my grandmother wore a wig” interludes: its theme of profound self-recognition was brilliantly resonant. 

We didn’t know about Boy With Beer before last week. We hadn’t thought about sharing something from Wig Out! either. We learned a lot, the participants learned a lot and everyone is looking forward to our next guest artists.

We are able to bring in artists like Jahvel, Oseloka, Vicky and, later this term, the brilliant theatre-maker Vijay Patel, thanks to the support of Arts Council England, for which we are very grateful.

• In our weekly digital drama club for older LGBTQ+ people, we play improv games, identify lessons from work by queer dramatists, write short monologues about our experiences of lockdown and then rehearse them to hone our performance skills. If you would like to know more, please email our participation producer, Daniel. No writing or performing experience is necessary!

10 June 2020