I feel like I’ve been away from the English theatre scene for several years, but in the last few months I’m being drawn back in. Did I need to step away, to recharge my batteries? There was a moment when it felt like it was sensible to stand aside and let others set up shop. Obviously I was still creating theatrical based work in my wilderness years – mainly with children. Now feels as good a time as any, to return with fresh ideas and inclinations.
Looking around me, what do I see? Some of the creative energy generated by my peers and me from earlier times has filtered through into American popular culture. This is probably for the best, since it means we can take for granted to an extent that there are more people who understand our terms of reference than what used to be the case.
With regard to people of African descent taking charge of telling our own stories and presenting our own images, I’m not sure things have moved on enough. I have no problems with people from other backgrounds and heritages wanting to draw inspiration from our cultures, but it would be heartening to see more of our creative practitioners taking on the roles of producers and directors. The vocabulary of our expression can only evolve if we invest time, energy and effort in seeing things through to completion as much as possible.
I would like to see more “honesty” and “authenticity” in the performing arts of Black Britain. I’m not a follower of Grime, but I applaud the sentiments expressed by some of the more luminous figures in the genre, about not having much to gain from trying to fit in with the ideas of mainstream record business operatives in England, for example.
In a similar way, perhaps we should be less inclined towards trying hard to “fit in”, or be concerned about getting as many bums on seats as possible. Sometimes we have to start small, to reach a point where ideas and aesthetics become part of the language shared by artists and audiences.