Hampstead Theatre to stage two live plays with social distancing
- Credit: Hampstead Theatre
Hampstead Theatre has announced its first live productions for 2021 including a rare revival of a black British play first performed at the theatre in 1975.
Telling the story of savvy teenage wheeler dealer Shakie and his best friend Stumpie, who hatch a plan to break into the booming music industry, Alfred Fagon's The Death of a Black Man raises enduring questions around identity, capitalism and sexual politics.
Meanwhile Hampstead Theatre Downstairs stages the world premiere of Deborah Bruce's Raya, a "funny and tender new play which questions whether it is possible to turn back time - even for just one night."
Old flames Alex and Jason haven't seen each other for years but at their University reunion they decide to revive those carefree days from their youth.
Both productions will be staged with social distancing for the duration of their runs.
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Hampstead Theatre artistic director Roxana Silbert, who directs Raya, said: "I am delighted to announce these productions for many reasons. I’m excited to share Alfred Fagon’s powerful, brilliant play with audiences and, I am counting down the days until we are in a rehearsal room with Deborah Bruce’s beautiful play Raya. COVID makes planning a challenge. If all goes well, our autumn season is overflowing with remarkable established and new artists including Katie Mitchell, Marsha Norman, Mufaro Makubika, Tom Wells and Tennessee Williams. We are desperate to get going again and support our wonderful freelance colleagues to do what they do best: make live theatre. It’s been a year since we shut our doors and we are ready to switch on the lights and welcome everyone back in."
Dawn Walton said she was looking forward to directing Fagon's "fascinating, complex play".
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"Alfred Fagon is a name so many of us are familiar with due to the legacy of the Alfred Fagon Award and yet people rarely get the chance to see his work. The Death of a Black Man is an opportunity to see why he was such a trailblazing artist of his generation."
Deborah Bruce added: "I can’t wait to return to the venue that produced my first play ten years ago. Raya is a play about two people reconnecting after a long time, which has a particular resonance at this moment, when only a year ago feels like a lifetime away."
Fagon came to Nottingham from Jamaica, joined the army and was a boxing champion and welder before becoming a successful poet and playwright. One of the first British black writers to have his work produced in the UK, he died at just 49 and was buried in a pauper’s grave when police claimed they could not identify him. Named in his honour, the Alfred Fagon Award is the leading theatre prize for black British writers.
Death of a Black Man runs from May 28 to July 10 and Raya from June 11 until July 24.