Hackney-born and raised, British Nigerian newcomer, Adenike Ojo, is all set to introduce her project; In Hiding’ an exuberant and touching play, a heartfelt appeal to the land of her ancestors which opens on the 21st June at Tower Theatre, Stoke Newington. The plot revolves around the realities of being a single mum raising an autistic child whose experience of motherhood is at war with tradition through a funny, moving and always insightful journey weaving through universally relatable themes of social identity and motherhood, exposing a world in love with status, real or imagined.
Alt got in conversation with Adenike, to speak regarding ‘In hiding’, her motivations, her experiences as a playwright and a lot more. We discuss on the relevance of the themes in her writing and on how she tried to explore new perspectives and spark meaningful debates through her work.
Book here: https://www.towertheatre.org.uk/in-hiding/
How does it feel having your new play performed in front of an audience?
Terrifying and exciting. It’s scary having taken 3 years to write this script and now having to let it go into the world. Excitement as I have listened to the readings, attended rehearsals and I just get goose bumps having the words I have written spoken and acted, the feeling is indescribable – I’m grateful to God.
What made you decide to become a playwright?
I’ve been writing for sometime, the usual story. I had to set my desire aside to fulfil the typical Nigerian heritage career path. However, alongside doing what was expected, I was able to exercise my creative side by writing scripts which were performed by the children/youth at my church. It was around 2019 that I really started to take the writing seriously, by submitting scripts into competitions and so on. It was one of my peers in a writing group that pushed me to apply for a competition – and so the playwright was born! Two of my plays were performed in the same month as part of a scratch night at Queen’s Theatre and at Theatre503. This strengthened my voice as a writer and increased my desire to tell the stories I wanted to see on stage.
Alt A :
Why did you decide on the subject matter of Autism?
Auntie Wonder Olusina, one of the few black speech therapists in the U.K, came to watch the scratch version of my play Soupcase at Theatre503 and mentioned she wanted to dramatise the stimitisation of neurodiversity (and in particular, autism) in the Nigerian community. According to the World Health Organisations 2011 World Disability Report, at least 25 million of Nigeria’s population (which at the time of writing the play was over 200 million people) have some form of disability or neurological condition. These are just the ones that have been diagnosed, therefore taking into account those that are not diagnosed, the figure might be significantly higher. My sister, Taye Ojo, has also been working with young adults and children with SEND for over 15 years. Therefore, this topic is an area of great interest.
Alt A :
Tell us without giving too much away who is the main protagonist?
BIMPE DaCosta who is part of the Lagos élite, is navigating raising her autistic son under the gaze of high society Lagos whilst continuing her ascent up both the career and social ladder.
Alt A :
Tell us where the story is set, who are the lead actors?
It is set in modern day Lagos.
The cast are:
- Bimpe DaCosta : Titilope Elegbede
- Bimpe DaCosta: Tayo Eleshin
- Iya Risikatu : Chidinma Ifunanyachi
- Iya Risikatu : Kemi Kentebe
- Fareeda : Olubukola (Buki) Bimbi-Philips
- Olaolu : Jeffery Kwateng-Acheampong
- Headmaster Mensah : Joshua Aketse-Entsie
- Ngozika : Xara Chisano
- Hakeem : Chidi Okeke
- Madam Agbeke of Warm Springs : Stella Betton
- Chief Akinwale Haastrup : Shane Afolabi
- Bolaji Azeez : Emefa Owusu-Cole
- Director: Kanayo Omo
Alt A :
What kind of stories do you like to tell as a writer?
Those that introduce new perspectives, spark meaningful debate, and record oral history so that it is not lost.
Alt A :
Which playwrights inspire you?
The writer that made me fall in love with writing full stop is Mildred D. Taylor. I’m also an avid fan of Shakespeare (aren’t we all!), Wole Soyinka, Dipo Agboluaje, James Fritz, Theresa Ikoko, Ryan Calais Cameron, Lynn Nottage, Tony Kushner, Dael Orlandersmith, Sarah Kane, and so many others.
Alt A :
Does growing up in Hackney have any bearing on what you write?
It does. I am privileged to have been born and raised in a diverse community which comes with diverse perspectives – which I take every opportunity to tap into through my writing.
Alt A :
Where do you call home?
My sofa, pillow, blanket, loads of books around me and a remote control so I can binge watch Suits, Top Boy and Girlfriends. Home is also whereever my loved ones are.
Alt A :
Where did you train as a writer ?
I studied screenwriting for TV and film at the National Film and Television School, Beaconsfield and completed courses at City Academy, the Poetry School and Spread the Word.
Alt A :
What tips would you give to anyone in the industry that who is just starting out to getting that first debut ill and play?
Believe in yourself, your story, your script and surround yourself with those who will push your writing to get better. The rejection will come, but use the rejection as fuel in your belly to keep pressing forward, you only need a “YES” no matter where it comes from YES is YES. Whilst you are waiting, continue to be curious, keep honing your writing, complete various courses (even those that are polar opposite to your taste, there is always something you can learn that will continue to elevate your writing). Rest, experience life, take advantage of flash sales to purchase play texts, go to the theatre, be gracious and kind to yourself. Remain humble, make good connections, be kind to people – it will serve you well and always keep in touch with your contacts in the industry.