Sister act explores the children of Windrush

The Fellowship

The Fellowship in rehearsal at Hampstead Theatre - Credit: Robert Day

Two sisters; one a high-flying lawyer, the other caring for their dying mum.

Both were on the streets protesting in the 1980s against a backdrop of prejudice and race riots, but have drifted apart. Now, their mother's illness has brought them back together, but they wonder how much they have much in common.

Writer Roy Williams says his latest play The Fellowship sprang from a desire to explore the experience of his own generation - the children of Windrush.

"I'd been wanting to write a play that addressed these themes for quite some time and I wanted it to be a family drama," he says.

"It's my way of looking at the children of the Windrush Generation. Where are they now that they are  - as I am - with 50 coming around the corner, almost twice as old as our parents were when they came to this country?"

Roy Williams in rehearsal for The Fellowship 

Roy Williams in rehearsal for The Fellowship - Credit: Robert Day

Siblings Dawn and Marcia share Williams' own back story of growing up in 80s London.

"They are very much of my generation. Late teens was for me a period when a lot came into focus. The Brixton riots, Broadwater Farm, the New Cross Fire, played into an awareness of how my parents had been treated, and how my generation had been treated in our own country. They came over here to start a better life and had to endure a lot of shit, but we were born here. We are British but made to feel we are not. It was a real cauldron of tension and frustration for that generation."

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Fast forward and the sister's lives have gone in different directions, Dawn is angry, struggling to care for their mum while coping with the death of one son and concern about another. Marcia has embraced small c conservatism and individual success, but it's threatened by an affair with a married politician.

"She's done something for him that has gone pear shaped and like Dawn has to re-evaluate who she is," says Williams.

"They are older, now the Windrush Generation are dying away and they are the old farts. It gives them the opportunity to reflect on where they are as black and British, and contrast how the next generation are less political."

Williams, whose plays include Wildefire, Death of England: Delroy and Sucker Punch, offers a a note of optimism as they rediscover their bond.

"There is class difference, their relationship is tested, but understanding between siblings is strong. They discover they are not that different and find each other again - as women, as human beings."

Williams says the play asks deep questions about what kind of a Britain we are in and sees a heroism in people "striving to be better people in this world - it's not an easy thing."

After two years of pandemic, he's also optimistic about British theatre and the proliferation of stories from diverse voices.

"This year has been exciting and it feels for the first time to be changing. Before, every time people hailed the resurgence of black theatre there was always me and two others mentioned, then five years go by and nothing's happened. Now everyone understands that this is not a one off thing, it is regular, constant. It was such a joy to go to a sold out matinee at the Royal Court recently and see 80 percent people of colour in a place that couldn't be more white. Its a case of "if we build it they will come."

And showcasing two complex, middle aged, women of colour is a good start.

"I can't remember a play where the two main characters are black women, and that's shocking. If this play goes some way to put that right, then brilliant."

The Fellowship runs at Hampstead Theatre from June 20 until July 23

The Fellowship runs at Hampstead Theatre from June 20 until July 23 - Credit: Shaun Webb Design Landscape

The Fellowship runs at Hampstead Theatre from June 20 to July 23. Visit www.hampsteadtheatre.com/whats-on/2022/the-fellowship/