Anthony Ekundayo Lennon: Life with Talawa and the ADLP

Anthony Ekundayo Lennon talks to us about his long-standing relationship with Talawa Theatre Company and his involvement with us as Associate Director, part of his Artistic Director Leadership Programme (ADLP) residency.

  • How long have you had an association with Talawa Theatre Company?

    My relationship with Talawa began in the 1990s as an actor in six productions. Each play was extremely special to me and being in a Talawa production was a source of great pride.

    The one production which stands out in my memory took place in 2000 and was called ‘The Prayer’, written by Grant Buchannan Marshal and directed by Michael Buffong at the Young Vic. I played a young child in the first half and man returning to the family home in the second half. Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze played my mother and she was amazing. Audience responses were brilliant, especially one evening when the outstanding Mona Hammond (whom I had admired and been in awe of for years) approached me after having watched the play and praised my work, telling me how moved she was by my performance. When someone as well-known and respected within our industry as Mona Hammond complements you … that’s a really big deal.

    What do you feel you’ve got from your association with Talawa and the ADLP so far?

    Thanks to my ongoing relationship with Talawa Theatre Company and by being on the ADLP I’ve been able to grow two areas of expertise which will greatly enhance my future as an artistic leader in the UK.

    First, the invaluable experience of being embedded within a leading theatre company which is shaping the landscape of theatre in the UK as it always has done, is preparing me for creating and running my company in the future.

    Second, the boost to my confidence being part of the ADLP underscores the sense of worth I have when in theatre or producer’s spaces that still keep access to a minimum for artists from Black and working-class backgrounds.

    Why are initiatives like the ADLP needed, and what can they do to make change happen?

    Initiatives like the ADLP are vital for creating opportunities for access to an industry that still lives by the ideology of ‘gate-keeping’ and closed networks. We have every right to expect theatre to be representative of society and communities. Inaction to achieve that aim will intensify the sense people have of seeing theatres as places that don’t welcome or speak to them from a genuine place of connection.

    Where do you hope to take the experience with Talawa and ADLP?

    I’ve wanted to direct and stage a production that’s been on my wish list for many years and thanks to the ADLP and Talawa Theatre Company this will happen in 2019. I’ve gone from not being sure how I was going to get it accomplished to doing it!

    As well as continuing with my directing work over the years to come I am looking forward to running a company with a colleague whom I’ve known since my days of being an actor at Black Mime Theatre. The company will specialise in working with new writers, devising and exploring what theatre can do to expand and enrich the minds and futures of young people.

    I’ll also be leading an annual national and international festival of new work creating opportunities for emerging and established artists to collaborate.

    And all this is a culmination of the positive experience with Talawa and the ADLP which has given me the tools and the strength to build on the industry relationships I’ve forged over the last fifteen years.

    About Artistic Director Leadership Programme (ADLP)

    Artistic Director Leadership Programme is a two-year training programme for future theatre leaders. This programme is divided into two strands: Leaders of Tomorrow andTrainee Artistic Director residencies.     

    The progamme is delivered by 20 Stories HighFreedom StudiosTalawa Theatre Company and tiata fahodzi, supported by the Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme (RTYDS) and Independent Theatre Council (ITC)

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