UK’s First-All Black, All-Female Shakespeare Theatre Company Hopes to Make Playwright’s Work More Accessible to Younger, Diverse Audiences

Mawa Theatre Company, left to right: Gabrielle Brooks, Maisey Bawden, Danielle Kassaraté and Jade Samuels. Photograph: Gabriel Mokake Photography/Mawa Theatre Company

The team behind the UK’s first all-black, all-female Shakespearean theatre company say it is planning to re-examine some of the Bard’s most famous works from a black female perspective and make him accessible for a new generation.

The Mawa Theatre Company was launched by actors Maisey Bawden, Gabrielle Brooks, Danielle Kassaraté and Jade Samuels and promises to “address how black and black mixed race women are represented in classical text”.

Brooks said that by filtering Shakespeare through a black female lens the company hoped to shed new light on classic works, show their universality and make them more accessible to certain communities.

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“Shakespeare remains a staple of British theatre,” she said. “He’s still the most produced playwright in the world and I think if we want to tackle diversity, representation and inclusion, then why not start with the Bard himself?”

Brooks added that the group would eventually put on performances, but the first project, in August, would be a series of videos inspired by Shakespeare in collaboration with Talawa Theatre Company, that will be posted online for free. Brooks said the company was in talks to put on work around the country.

Bawden will be artistic director of the company, which has received funding from the Arts Council. The Olivier-winning actor Sharon D Clarke will serve as its ambassador, while the film director Amma Asante is on Mawa’s advisory board.

Brooks said that Mawa would show the universality of Shakespeare’s writing and also home in on themes such as ancestry, class, female friendships and colonisation in the future productions.

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SOURCE: The Guardian, Lanre Bakare

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