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Announcing Play On! as part of Talawa’s Black Joy Season

Talawa, the UK’s outstanding Black theatre company, has announced Black Joy 2024, a season of theatre and workshops celebrating Black stories and artists. The Black Joy season is a partnership between Talawa, Olivier Award-winning J Clare Productions, and Chuchu Ngawu Productions to create local and national opportunities for Black artists. The season will feature an exciting new musical production, Play On! which premieres with us here at the Belgrade in September 2024, a new touring Studio Commission, and Seed Commissions to support Black artists around the country and more.

Play On! is at the centre of Talawa’s Black Joy season, epitomising the ethos of this exciting programme of work. This joyous retelling of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night vividly brings to life the 1940s New York jazz scene, set to a timeless, toe-tapping Duke Ellington soundtrack. This exciting jazz musical is conceived by Sheldon Epps, with a book by Cheryl L. West. In the Cotton Club, New York City, a young songwriter arrives ready to make her name – but disguising herself as a man will give her a better shot in a male-dominated music world. As she meets club owner The Duke and sensational singer Lady Liv, Vy is swept up in a syncopated symphony of melodies, mistaken identities and romance.

Play On!, directed by Talawa’s Artistic Director Michael Buffong, will tour to the Belgrade Theatre, Birmingham Hippodrome, Bristol Old Vic, Liverpool Everyman, Salisbury Playhouse and Lyric Hammersmith from September 2024 – February 2025. Play On! is co-produced by Talawa Theatre Company; Belgrade Theatre, Coventry; Birmingham Hippodrome; Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse Theatres; Lyric Hammersmith Theatre; and Wiltshire Creative, Salisbury. Talawa, the Belgrade and other partners are proud that Play On! will provide opportunities for emerging and mid-career global majority talent to work on a large-scale production and tour, addressing under-representation in the sector, through an Associate Programme. The majority of the creative team and cast will be from a global majority background, in line with Talawa’s commitment to supporting global majority actors and creatives.

The six Play On! partners including the Belgrade, are committed to supporting Black artists to create theatre across the country. As part of the tour, the Belgrade and each of the six venue partners along with Talawa will participate in the Seed Commission Programme – each partner commissioning an emerging Global Majority artist and supporting them in creating new work. The programme will include scratch performances and networking events throughout the year. The lead artists will be recruited through an open call process, encouraging multi-discipline artists to apply, and Talawa will work with each partner including the Belgrade on this.

Talawa’s Black Joy season aims to celebrate Black stories and creatives throughout the year, helping to produce new shows and support emerging writers and artists. Black Joy was partially inspired by Chanté Joseph’s 2020 British Vogue article examining the concept of Black joy, what this means and how it can be act of resistance to revel in Black culture and happiness.

The Belgrade is thrilled to work as a Black Joy partner and co-producer of Play On! and premiering this exciting new production in September 2024 which goes on sale Tues 2 April 2024.