Black Love Kiln Theatre: 'I'm inspired by the nuances of what Black lives contain'

Nicholle Cherrie in Black Love at Kilburn Kiln Theatre

Nicholle Cherrie in Black Love at Kilburn Kiln Theatre - Credit: Camilla Greenwell

A heady blend of music, memory, verbatim testimony and imaginary worlds, Black Love comes to Kilburn's Kiln Theatre after a successful run in London and national tour.

Chinonyerem Odimba's powerful tale of brother and sister Aurora and Orion, whose sibling bond in their small London flat is tested by arrival of Orion's white girlfriend Lois, includes a soundscape of interviewees talking about what Black Love means to them, and R&B inspired songs by Odimba and Ben and Max Ringham. We asked her about the project.

Chinonyerem Odimba and Garen Abel Unokan in rehearsals for Black Love at the Kiln, Kilburn

Chinonyerem Odimba and Garen Abel Unokan in rehearsals for Black Love at the Kiln, Kilburn - Credit: Camilla Greenwell

Q: Black Love is innovative in terms of form. Was that conscious or just the way this story came out?

A: I have always been interested in form and how that informs what I want to say politically. When I started writing this I knew I wanted to bring in elements of naturalism as well as trying to create a space that was beyond anything we can reach as humans - an ancestral space of sorts. The verbatim aspects came later as I started to wonder what real voices had to say about what Black Love means to them.

Q: Are there biographical elements to the play and its inspiration?

A: The real events that inspired the play happened a few years before but there was a part of me that didn’t want to write it because it was painful at the time, and I knew it would be difficult to bring that conversation to an audience. I tend not to write from an autobiographical place but of course my characters can reflect my experiences as a Black woman – which they do in this play. Mostly I am inspired by the nuances of what Black lives contain.

Q What is the importance of sound and music in the play?

Nathan Queeley Dennis plays Orion in Black Love.

Nathan Queeley Dennis plays Orion in Black Love. - Credit: Camilla Greenwell

Most Read

A: The music and sound is a place of joy for me. We have created a portfolio of songs that I would happily listen to beyond the show. Having worked with Ben and Max Ringham on a previous Kiln production, I knew they were the right collaborators. We have a way of communicating and understanding how our musical influences come together, and I trust them to make beautiful music for the lyrics. The sound design captures both what was happening in the world as I was writing it, as well as the other spaces characters occupy.

Q: Is it important to direct your own work?

A: When I started directing seven years ago, I was adamant I would not direct my own work so the decision to direct this was not an easy one. It was a matter of confidence too I guess, as I knew that people would question my ‘right’ to do both. This play required me to be in the creative process beyond being the writer and it’s been joyous to work with the play as a director and learn to take up that space.

Q: Why did you write about siblings?

A: It's not a relationship we see often expressed in our cultural lives or on stages when we think of the Black experience. I knew that because of the title people might assume it is about romantic love but I am hoping audiences will enjoy getting to know these characters through their sibling bond.

Black Love at Kiln Theatre Kilburn 2022

Beth Elliott and Nathan Queeley Dennis in Black Love - Credit: Camilla Greenwell

Q: It's an outsider who challenges that bond...

A: The overall things that I was reflecting on whilst writing the play about disruption and interruption of Black history and lives throughout history but particularly in relation to slavery and colonialism is something I wanted to explore through the idea of an outside character that makes their existence even harder.

Q: Is humour important in your writing?

Nicholle Cherrie plays Aurora in Black Love

Nicholle Cherrie plays Aurora in Black Love - Credit: Camilla Greenwell

A: Oh yes! Humour and laughter are very important to how I exist in the world. So much of what we navigate in life as human beings is painful, and humour is what we can gift to each other.

Q: What do you hope audiences will take away from Black Love?

A: It’s hard to decide for audiences what they take away, but my greatest wish is that this makes people think and talk to each other. Some of the conversations that we are now required to have, and that we have in this show are hard and uncomfortable, but also necessary. I hope it inspires people to talk about their particular lives and reject any boxes people try to put them in.

Black Love runs March 28-April 23 at Kiln Theatre. https://kilntheatre.com/whats-on/black-love/