The UK’s first all-black and all-female Shakespeare company has been launched to make the Bard accessible for a new generation through issues like colonialism and colourism.
Mawa Theatre Company has been established by BAME performers Gabrielle Brooks, Danielle Kassaraté, Jade Samuels, and Eastender actress Maisey Bawden.
The venture is the UK’s first Shakespearean theatre company to be exclusively black and female, and is aimed at making the Bard appeal to diverse audiences.
The London-based company will focus on “producing content that focuses on themes within his works that correlate with the Black community”.
This will include reimagining William Shakespeare’s work in regard to issues including “Ancestry, Class, Colonisation, Misogynoir (misogyny against black women), colourism”.
Its founders announced that the group will “address how Black and Black Mixed Race Women are represented in classical text” and “explore how Shakespeare translates to Black audiences”
The company was devised in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 as a response to “structural” problems preventing BAME performers from being given opportunities in the theatre industry.
Co-founder Gabrielle Brooks wrote: “It’s no secret that Black and Black mixed – race women are still not cast as often as white performers in classical text.
“It highlights a continuing erasure of Blackness from traditionally white led art forms and ultimately an erasure of Blackness from British Art.”
Mr Brooks claimed that Shakespeare, the most produced playwright worldwide, is to remain “a staple of British culture and wants to continue to be a political” then his work “must be reimagined and break down barriers”.
Sharon D Clarke, a Holby City star and three-time Olivier Award-winner, has been made an ambassador of Mawa Theatre Company.
She said: “We have waited a long time for a company like this and I’m excited to see them produce some groundbreaking, thought provoking, innovative work.
“The industry desperately needs more Black led female companies.”