New Diorama reunites with playwright Jessica Hagan (Queens of Sheba) and multi-award-winning company Nouveau Riche (For Black Boys…) for this radiant, rebellious world premiere.
After an unexpected break-up and beaten down by comparison to her married little sister, Ama embarks on a frenzied journey to become a mother.
Rollercoastering from a Black sperm donor shortage to a racialised healthcare system – and an overbearing family of her own – Ama’s charging head-first into embarrassing conversations, awkward encounters and defiant decisions. ALT caught up with writer Hagan to talk about her intentions for her lastest play “Brenda’s Got A Baby”.
ALT. This looks exciting – with so much going on, going to the theatre to laugh is a bonus – can you elaborate on why you decided to make it funny?
Thank you! Life feels really heavy at the moment. I’ve recently found myself searching for relief – moments where I can genuinely laugh, or dance, or pray or breathe out! As a writer I feel deeply responsible for the emotional state of the audience for the time they’re sitting in those seats, and I wanted to offer silliness, joy and laughter – even if it’s just for an hour and a half! The cast includes:
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ALT. Stories of Black women: are we getting there in terms of representation?
We’re getting there! I’m looking forward to watching more nuanced, unconventional stories created by black women and with black woman characters at the centre. I hope this work is supported and encouraged, and that funders let go of their preconceived notions of what ‘black theatre’ should look and feel like.
ALT. We last spoke I think during the pandemic – how has that journey been for you?
A bumpy one for sure! It feels so long ago now, gosh! Since then, I’ve spent a decent amount of time figuring out what kind of writer, creator, friend, partner, daughter and sister I want to be, and that feels great.
ALT. Post George Floyd, what are some of the positive events you have seen in the industry and what changes would you like to see?
I think we witnessed an incredible amount of reactionary support and performative allyship within our industry, which is rapidly dwindling. I would love to see sincere support for the black community without the announcements, press interviews and statements.
ALT. How do you find the beat when writing a comedy – is it something that comes naturally to you?
Throughout this process, David Byrne, Artistic Director of New Diorama Theatre has really been encouraging me to trust my “naturally comedic” voice and that has really helped me lean into what actually does come quite naturally! I worked with an amazing dramaturg, Naomi Obeng, who was very also helpful in finding the funny. I also try to go to the theatre at least one a week and analyse work works in terms of beats, pace, dialogue, audience reactions etc. and apply some of those learnings to my work.
ALT. What have been some of your learning curves and career highlights as a writer?
The success of Queens of Sheba has been an absolutely blessing and will forever be a career highlight! We took the show to New York in January as part of Under the Radar Festival 2023 and it was a wonderful experience. I’ve also done some really cool residencies and programmes which have helped me transition to screenwriting.
I’ve learnt so much in my short time as a writer, it’s mind-blowing. I’m grateful for people in the industry who have given me advice on how to advocate for myself, and also to maintain an authentic voice. It’s easy to write what’s popular, but is that why we started writing in the first place?!
ALT. What would you say makes a good theatre play?
A strong message, committed actors and a writer and director with a shared vision.
ALT. What do you like about being a writer?
The opportunity to hold up a mirror to society. All the things I can’t say out-loud, I can put in a character!
ALT. Can you tell us a bit more about the premise of “Brenda’s Got A Baby” – without giving too much away?
It’s a story about a Ghanaian-British girl called Ama, who is nearing 30 and (very badly) trying to deal with the pressures of this new age.
1ALT. Who is Brenda?
I can’t spoil the show! What I can say is Brenda is someone many of us inner-city British kids would recognise.
1ALT. Why should people see this play and if you COULD control the audience take-away, want would you want that to be?
I think the message of the play is incredibly relevant and important. I’d love for the audience to take the information shared in the play seriously – black maternal deaths are alarmingly high, and we need to do all we can to change that.
ALT. You are working with Nouveau Riche again: what do you get from the collaboration?
When we did Queens of Sheba, we were able to build a community of new theatre-goers of all ages who were excited to see themselves represented on stage. Nouveau Riche has such a unique offering in terms of the audiences they create for each of the shows they produce/co-produce and that is super important to me.
ALT. What kind of stories excite you?
Stories that challenge my thinking!
ALT. What book did you last read?
Yellowface by R. F. Kuang!
ALT. Where do you call home?
Tues – Sats, 7.30pm
Super tough question which I definitely do not have the perfect answer for! Both London and Accra are ‘home’ to me – they are places where I have love, support and the freedom to grow. BUY TICKETS HERE