A group of thespians that I worked with when I was an emerging artist were based in a disused temple. Local people might have felt there were wayward things going on in the building, but in actual fact, there was a fierce commitment amongst the players to the idea of creating a holy genre of theatre.
We were all young and probably felt marginalised from the mainstream. The work we generated was our way of expressing the outcome of intense debates about responsibility, values and Black self reliance. Did the group ever come up with a credo that was shared by all the participants in each production? There were one or two cases when that happened, but in hindsight, maybe there was some work to be done with regard to evaluation of attitudes towards negotiation.
For a short while, the ensemble’s energy seemed like it was going to become part of a larger discourse on the theatre scene. This would have been a great thing, because there is still so much that can be done to bring a truly unique Black British theatre aesthetic into being.
Perhaps due to overheated group dynamics, many of the key players eventually left the creative temple (probably gasping for air). The ideas that could have contributed towards building up a powerful aesthetic were eventually used by individual artists as part of their tool kits in working in the mainstream.
Are there reasons to look back on those times with ruefulness now? Very few small ensembles that existed then have lasted till today. Maybe the work that was created served its purpose at that point in time. Is there a chance that timeless Black British performance work will emerge any time soon? We can only live in hope.