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Inside: Blackta A Young Vic Production By Nathaniel Martello-White


November 2012

Inside: Blackta A Young Vic Production By Nathaniel Martello-White

Contents Introduction Part 1: The Play 1. The Playwright 2. The Characters Part 2: Making Blackta 1. The Creative Team 2. The Director 3. The Assistant Director 4. The Actors 5. Annotated Script 6. Rehearsal Diary 7. The Assistant Director’s Notebook 8. Task Ideas from the Blackta Devising Week Part 3: History 1. The Emergence: Black Theatre Begins Part 4. Further Exercises and Reading 1. Exercises 2. Further Reading The full Blackta script is available in the programme. If you have any questions or comments about this resource pack please contact us at or 0207 922 2858. Compiled by: Roy Alexander Weise Edited by: Georgia Dale Photos by Simon Annand, unless otherwise stated. First performed at the Young Vic on 26th October 2012


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Inside: Blackta A Young Vic Production By Nathaniel Martello-White Hello all My name is Roy Alexander Weise. I have been a freelance theatre director and playwright for almost five years now. It all started when I stumbled across the Oval House theatre one day on the way home from school. I was bursting for the toilet and ran into the closest building. One might call it destiny and some might call it a happy accident; either way, I haven't looked back since. I trained at Rose Bruford College on the BA Hons Directing course and graduated just over a year ago. Since then I have directed my first professional production Skeen! at Oval House theatre and have directed/assisted at venues and companies such as the Young Vic, Almeida Theatre, Talawa and Lyric Hammersmith. I am particularly interested in theatre anchored in politics, social change and theatre for young people. Producing this pack has been such an interesting journey for me and a continuation of some research that I began whilst at Rose Bruford. I became intrigued by the role that theatre and other mediums of art have had in the integration of different communities and cultures into British society. You can read more about the beginning of my findings in excerpts of my research notes. Hopefully this is also useful in terms of finding access to Black theatre history resources. Overall, (and most importantly) I hope that this allows you to find out about the process of making Blackta and the multiple ways to get into and to begin making theatre. Please try out the exercises if you can as they also give a more practical understanding of the themes and the process. Best wishes Roy


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Inside: Blackta A Young Vic Production By Nathaniel Martello-White Part 1: The Play 1. The Playwright Blackta is set up as a story about a talent contest between a group of black actors who are competing with one another. If you’re not a black actor then this play shouldn’t apply to you, should it? Yes, it could. Whilst the play uses race as its vehicle, it is about being a part of a marginalised group in society. It is about a group who are struggling to achieve something because of a lack of opportunities, and because of resistance generated by fear of change and difference. This story is about ambition, about passion, about perseverance and these are feelings and states of being which can be experienced by anybody. Of course, in this case the story is clearly quite close to Nathaniel Martello-White who is himself a young black actor.

Nathaniel Martello-White on the set of his debut production

Nathaniel Martello-White Nathaniel is originally from South London. He trained as an actor at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA); arguably one of the best and most successful drama schools in the world. He has had a healthy career as an actor working on both the stage and the screen. He has recently appeared in E4’s popular television series Misfits and before then has appeared in a number of landmark theatre productions such as Tarell Alvin McCraney’s The Brother’s Size (Young Vic), Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (Young Vic), Oxford Street (Royal Court) and a number of productions with the Royal Shakespeare Company. He has been working professionally for six years and is a well known young black actor on the theatre circuit with huge potential to become one of Britain’s most successful black actors. However, he has felt that there haven’t always been equal opportunities for him to achieve the same career momentum as some of his white counterparts. So what better to do than to kill several birds with one stone: extend your profile as an artist by becoming a creator, write six parts for six brilliant black actors and confront the industry on the issues which many black actors face?


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Inside: Blackta A Young Vic Production By Nathaniel Martello-White

Here are excerpts from Nathaniel’s article in The Independent newspaper about Blackta: Growing up, I learned quickly that people are scared of difference. When you don't conform to what is expected of you people are quick to attack your individuality: Why are you dressing like that? What music are you listening to? Why aren't you visibly strong and grunting like an ogre? Where's your hood? Where's your bop that leaves dents in the concrete?

A hooded youth walks past a burning vehicle during riots in Hackney, north London. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images (From the article: The Power of the Hoodie,

In my late teens I became quite disillusioned with this kind of ignorance, and one afternoon was compelled to write my first street poem – "regular ting". I'd never written anything before, but it just poured out of me. Cut to six years later, I'd graduated from RADA and was sitting in the bar at the Curzon cinema with a group of actor friends. One of the guys shared a story of how he had told another actor about a role he was playing in a TV drama. He said: "Oh, you're playing the blackta part. You know, the friend to the protagonist, the sidekick". We all burst out laughing but there was something in it that was all too familiar. We were a group of actors who had come out of the top drama schools and played lead roles for the RSC and National Theatre, but now we found ourselves in a strange limbo. Why weren't there quality parts for us in TV and film? And that's where Blackta started. From that laughter and then the creeping suspicion and frustration that the playing fields aren't level. Among my group of friends we would often find ourselves auditioning for the same part – and with depressing frequency that part would be the drug dealer or the guy-done-good from a broken home. Another time, I'd bagged a lead role in a Second World War movie, had my bag packed and was ready to leave home, only to be told by my agent a few days later that they'd written out


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Inside: Blackta A Young Vic Production By Nathaniel Martello-White the part, because the marketing people claimed that there were no black American soldiers in the Second World War.

The arrival of the 369th black infantry regiment in New York after the first world war. Photograph: Bettmann/Corbis

Around the same time, I'd been writing a lot of film scripts and not really getting anywhere, and a friend of mine said: "You work in theatre – why don't you write a play?". I went home and once again, it just poured out of me. In a frenzy. A 17-page scene in one burst. Blackta isn't just a play about being an actor. Yes, the characters in my play are actors and are competing in something like an audition process, but on the simplest level it's about a group of guys in a competition where there is only one prize and no such thing as a second place. It looks at what those conditions do to their friendships. How friends become frenemies, if you like. It is also a snapshot of some of the high highs and low lows of being a black actor. It comes from my conversations and frustrations, it revels in the absurdity and the sheer joy of being an actor. I took traits from people I know and took my own experiences of madcap auditions and workshops and vamped them up to the max. I wanted to write a play that I would want to watch at the theatre; I didn't want it to be preachy or whiny. The characters in my play are obsessed with winning, at any cost. It is an amplified, ramped-up version of the competitiveness I saw develop between friends when they realised that they were battling for the one seat at the table. There is this thing in black communities, a kind of post-colonial syndrome, where people are defined by how fair or dark they are, how soft or tough their hair is, how light or dark their eyes are, how fine their features are. I wanted to get close to this, to really look at it, so I decided to set the play in an abstract world and not give the characters names, but shades – Brown, Black, Yellow, Dull Brown. It allows me to explore the caste system in black communities, which essentially boils down to how much or little white blood is in your heritage. It astonishes me that, for such an evolved race, colour or the lack of it plays such a major part in our psychological make-up.


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Inside: Blackta A Young Vic Production By Nathaniel Martello-White It also brings themes from my street poetry back to the fore – the disconnect between masculinity and vulnerability. As Black says to Brown in the play: "They took your masculinity from you years ago – they stripped you of that – amputated that shit – decapitated your manhood – and since then – since all them years ago – you've just been trying to get it back – hence why so many of us are mad bent on walking around like caveman – angry caveman – without an ounce of vulnerability." If there is one key idea behind Blackta it's the idea of self-mobility. If life doesn't show you the open door of opportunity, then it's up to you to create your own thing. For me, it was writing, but some of my peers have gone into directing and producing their own material. It has to go further than this: a collective frustration among black actors in the UK about the limited roles we are offered means that many are making the tough decision to relocate to America (three of the cast of Blackta are going next year). We can't end up in a situation where all of our best talent is lost. I'm part of a generation who believes that they have a rightful seat at the table. A fiercely talented and intelligent generation of black British artists, writers and actors who want to express themselves with material that not only reflects their complexity but also their eloquence and talent. That stretches beyond the realms of the tower-block estates. London should be a benchmark for the world. The Independent, Wednesday 24th October 2012


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Inside: Blackta A Young Vic Production By Nathaniel Martello-White

Part 1: The Play 2. The Characters Notes from Jade Lewis, Boris Karloff Trainee Assistant Director Brown: A Radical As ‘The Thing’ and Brown’s ‘representor’ consistently fail to acknowledge Brown’s sheer determination and talent to potentially achieve the “Greenest of Ever Green Lights”, Brown decides to take matters into his own hands. The journey that Brown pursues leads him on a path of radicalism in his thoughts and political beliefs, specifically regarding how ‘The Thing’ has treated him and his friends. Confronted by his peers and their competitive nature, Brown plans to recruit an army as well as build his “own ting”. Will he succeed? Black: A Nihilist Insecure about how he looks and how ‘The Thing’ sees him, Black’s tactic to win this Thing is by being the best that he can be; talented. Black believes he has the answers and solutions to this Thing, which leads to conflict, depression and overeating. Determined to win whilst battling anger and constant eating, will he ever truly be fulfilled? Yellow: A Cynic If anyone has clocked ‘The Game’, it’s Yellow. He knows what ‘The Thing’ likes, wants and sees. As a result, Yellow has the ability to win the ultimate prize; the “Greenest of Ever Green Lights”. Nevertheless, his philosophies challenge those of his peers, especially as his competitors believe that it’s Yellow’s new circle of friends, the floppy heads, and his Yellowness that really determine his prospects with ‘The Thing’.

Javone Prince, Daniel Francis and Leo Wringer


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Inside: Blackta A Young Vic Production By Nathaniel Martello-White

Dull Brown: A Fantasist Dull Brown executes every task he is ever given to an excellent standard; however he never gets the results he deserves because he is dull. His dullness has led him to question himself and he is trying to be on a level with his competitors throughout the play. The downside of his personal quest has led to his friends to accuse him of constantly telling lies. Has he cried wolf too many times? Younger Black: An Upstart The new generation is personified in Younger Black as he walks into a prejudiced industry. However, unlike those who have preceded him, Younger Black has choices, having seen Brown not only conquer ‘The Thing’ but build his “own Ting”. How will this affect his attitude towards ‘The Thing’? Older Black: An Ageist Back in his day he fought for the cause by finding many ways to penetrate ‘The Thing’. The saddest thing is that as time has changed he seems to have been left behind. Older Black continues to fight against ‘The Thing’ but will he give in? ‘The Thing’ Has many definitions. A faceless, nameless entity judging each ‘Blackta’ on unknown criteria. It represents the establishment, the people in charge, the holders of the key, and holds the fate of each ‘Blackta’. In actuality,’ The Thing’ is an abstract representation of the acting industry and the casting process.

Leo Wringer as Older Black


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Inside: Blackta A Young Vic Production By Nathaniel Martello-White Part 2: Making Blackta 1. The Creative Team

Creative Team Direction

David Lan


Jeremy Herbert


Jeremy Herbert & Nicki Brown


Carolyn Downing


Julia Horan CDG


Chloe Lamford


Joseph Alford

Jerwood Assistant Director

Matthew Xia

Production Manager

Sam Paterson


Vicky Berry


Ian Andlaw


Kate Wilson

Boris Karloff Assistant Director

Jade Lewis

Cast (alphabetical order) Yellow

Howard Charles


Daniel Francis

Younger Black

Michael Oku

Dull Brown

Javone Prince


Anthony Welsh

Older Black

Leo Wringer


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Inside: Blackta A Young Vic Production By Nathaniel Martello-White Part 2: Making Blackta 2. The Director - David Lan, Director of Blackta and Artistic Director of the Young Vic David Lan: in conversation with Roy Alexander Weise RW: DL:

How did you come across the play? Nathaniel sent it to me. I know him quite well beacuse he’s done at least two shows here, he was in The Brother Size, and then he was in a play I did a while ago called Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. So he sent me the play, and I read it and immediately I thought ‘we should do this play’. I think before I finished it I thought ‘yeah this is interesting in a way that not many other new plays that I read are’. It seemed to be original and have something to say about life, in a small way and in a big way at the same time.


And why did you choose to put it on now, at this particular moment in time? I can’t answer that question (both laugh), when else? I guess it is nine months since I told Nathaniel we’d do the play. I wanted to think about it, I wanted to put a really good team together. But, I did it as soon as we could really, I didn’t want to hang about.


We put an enormous amount of care and thought into how to produce the play, and it’s not easy, it’s actually a very difficult play. I don’t think Nathaniel realised how difficult it is, partly because… it’s written like a film. The way the scenes follow each other is very exciting in the theatre if you pull it off, but there are 50, more than 50 scenes in the play, and finding a way to make it feel like a coherent piece… [Nathaniel Martello-White] says that he wants it to go like a train, that’s what [the script says], but it’s not immediately obvious how you achieve that. I wanted to take the time that it needed, to work out how to try and achieve what he wanted. But given all those factors, we did it as soon as we could. RW: DL:

What kind of process was there? What kind of exercises did you use? Well the main thing I did was read it, many times, over quite a long period of time, try to understand it. Reading it, I knew there was something powerful in it, but I didn’t know what it was for a long time, it took a while to work out what was the progress of the characters throughout the play. So the main thing was just getting to know the play, and talking to Nathaniel about it. There’s a bit of the play that is very particular, the tasks that the actors do… which is not written in the play, one’s just told that a particular kind of action needs to happen, and this is the consequence of it, but it doesn’t tell you what the action is. We did a week with a director called Joseph Alford. Joseph runs a company called Theatre O, I admire his work very much. Joseph led a week’s research with a group of improvisers, not people 11

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Inside: Blackta A Young Vic Production By Nathaniel Martello-White who could be in the play, they weren’t black and some of them aren’t men, but a group of his colleagues. Over the week they came up with ideas, some of which are directly in the play, some of which created a sort of territory. Nathaniel was also there for some of the time. I just wanted to be sure that what I thought we should do was the same as what he thought we should do, and that week was a very useful way of making sure that we were in the same territory. I spent a lot of time working with the designer, Jeremy Herbert, coming up with a way of doing the play that would enable it to move very quickly, very lightly. Working with a costume designer, Chloe Lamford, we wandered around the streets together, taking photographs, looking at people. Especially in parts of London where there are large numbers of young black people, East London, South London, Brixton and so on. And then referred back to Nathaniel, I mean I’m not from Nathaniel’s world, except where it crosses in this building, so just wanting to make sure I understand it, really, because the whole point is to do what he’s written.

David Lan


How long did you have to rehearse, and for you was that a sufficient amount of time? Well, you make a judgement on that when you go and see Blackta! (both laugh) I don’t like any show that is seen here to have less than five weeks rehearsal - sometimes the small shows in the Maria do because it’s just so expensive, but I don’t like that, because it’s very difficult doing a play properly. And if you have to hurry it’s very easy to end up with clichés. I’m not a younger person, but the gift you can give younger people is time. So the standard length of time here is five weeks, plus a technical week, plus some previews. Now with this play…. It’s Nathaniel’s first play and something that can happen with early plays is that you try and fix them if you think they need work. Sometimes that’s good and sometimes that isn’t good because you can kill something because you don’t yet know what it is. You start off thinking, it’s not like other plays so it must be wrong, it must be, and you try and fix it. I said to Nathaniel, I wanted to, as far as I can, do what he’s written, and then put it in front of an audience, because maybe he knows more than I do, maybe


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Inside: Blackta A Young Vic Production By Nathaniel Martello-White he’s understood something I haven’t understood and if I try and mess with it, maybe we’ll lose something. So its five weeks in the rehearsal room, a week of technical rehearsals, and then a week of previews, so altogether that’s seven weeks. RW: DL:

Do you think the industry still has issues with casting people from ethnic minorities? I want to say, ‘I don’t know what the industry is’. It’s a word people use a lot but there is no ‘industry’, as such, it’s not like making motor cars or bathtubs, there’s not a single voice, it’s not a single objective. I don’t really like that phrase, ‘the industry’, it is shorthand which disguises, a complex reality. Go and see The Lion King, The Lion King is absolutely full of black people, probably entirely a black company, the people who produce The Lion King don’t have any problems, or any hesitation, employing black people. But go and see Uncle Vanya… or indeed there are no black people in Three Sisters [the recent Young Vic production], at all - good thing, bad thing? We considered a number of black people for parts in Three Sisters. It is rare for there to be a show in this theatre that doesn’t have a complex casting. We considered a number of black people for Three Sisters, and either they weren’t free, or they didn’t want to do it, turned it down - that often happens and people assume that if you offer a black actor a part he’ll take it, often they go no I don’t want to do that, and then you don’t cast black people you cast white people. British Theatre is very conservative, and people think realism is very important. So if you’re doing a play set in a middle class house in England in the 1920s, you can’t cast black actors ‘cos it wouldn’t be realistic. Well that’s one way of making theatre, but it’s only one way. I think racism is a very complicated thing, and it goes very deep, and it affects people in a very profound level in terms of their identity, what they think they are, what they think life means…. It’s really important, I think, to be aggressive about finding other ways of imagining how we can work. But there’s no universal, to suggest as an industry it’s all like that…. if you correct one thing, just fix one bit of it, turn on one tap, it’ll all get better, it’s not going to happen, it’s not, it’s deep, it’s endemic. If you’re stuck in a view of theatre which is that it has to be realistic, then it’s difficult, but, A Doll’s House [the recent Young Vic production] is quite a realistic production and it’s got Steve Touissant in it. I didn’t have to encourage that, Carrie [Cracknell, the director] said ‘I really really want to have a complex company here, I don’t know which part’. I know when she met Steve [Touissant], she was very impressed by him as an actor. You just have to keep battling away, that’s my view, anyway. 13

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Inside: Blackta A Young Vic Production By Nathaniel Martello-White

Part 2: Making Blackta 3. The Assistant Director – Matthew Xia, Assistant Director of Blackta Learning from experienced directors by assisting is a vital chance to develop skills and understanding. Each year the Jerwood Assistant Director Program, supported by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation aims to provide eight assistant directorships which include a residency at the Young Vic and an attachment to a production. The placement includes:  An assistantship on a Young Vic production or co-production  Observing day to day running of the theatre (attending programming and management meetings)  The opportunity to devise and lead two peer-led projects for the Genesis Directors Network  A resourced week of research and development to develop an idea, or workshop a play  Work with the Taking Part department on delivering a programme of work for schools and colleges inspired by the show you have assisted on  A small pot of money to see shows  Mentoring during the placement  The option to use the Young Vic as a base for six months following the completion of the placement e.g. use of office space (when available), attend meetings etc.

Anthony Welsh (Brown)


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Inside: Blackta A Young Vic Production By Nathaniel Martello-White

Matthew Xia: in conversation with Roy Alexander Weise What is the role of the assistant director? The role of the assistant director is to help make the director’s job easier. This can involve research and development work. The assistant director has to completely understand the director’s vision for the play and support it in every which way. This means contributing to conversations around the concept of the play, note taking during the preview week, helping stage ideas and develop characters. What is specific to your role as a Jerwood Assistant Director? I've been involved in all areas of the work due to the very generous nature of David's process. The Jerwood programme also allows the Assistant Director to develop work of their own outside of the production, see work in London they may not otherwise be able to see and includes a four week tailored training programme at the Young Vic working in the various departments. What is your relationship to the play? My relationship to the play involves my understanding of what it means to be a young(ish) mixed race creative in a world that is essentially dominated by an elite class of Oxbridge graduates who may struggle to understand my place in their world. The play resonates on many levels - I have a strong interest in the repercussions of slavery on the modern black identity. What have you learnt? That there are many different processes and that the process most applicable to the project will always be bespoke. That it's important not to let individual cast members dictate the energy of the room or the emotion of the cast as a homogenous group. What has been your greatest challenge? Having never assisted before it has been an unusual process for me supporting someone’s view even when I personally would do something different. David employs a softly-softly approach to his directing and at times I would have pushed for a more direct style of achieving the desired results. What has been the most exciting part of the process? Working with a fantastic team, David's generosity and being a part of what has the potential to be a really strong conceptual exploration of race. What’s next for you? I'm off to Liverpool for a year to be the resident director as recipient of the Regional Theatre Young Directors Scheme.


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Inside: Blackta A Young Vic Production By Nathaniel Martello-White Part 2: Making Blackta 4. The Actors BROWN Anthony Welsh returns to the Young Vic following his acclaimed performance in The Brothers Size (Olivier nominated). His recent theatre includes Precious Little Talent (Trafalgar Studios), Pornography (Tricycle) and he starred in the smash-hit Sucker Punch (Royal Court ). He recently appeared in the Channel 4 flagship drama Top Boy. He’s had some very exciting film appearances – including starring in Comes a Bright Day and Dirty Money. He recently appeared in My Brother the Devil (Sundance award winner). BLACK Daniel Francis also returns to the Young Vic following his performance in The Brothers Size in 2009. His recent theatre includes Twelfth Night (RSC) and Off The Endz (Royal Court). He has appeared in the film Fast Girls and the television programme Eternal Law.

YELLOW Howard Charles makes his Young Vic debut as Yellow in Blackta. He has recently been in the RSC Ensemble for The Merchant of Venice as Gratiano and Macbeth as Malcolm. He also played the Security Officer in the critically acclaimed production of Enron (Chichester/Royal Court/West End).

DULL BROWN Javone Prince returns to the Young Vic following his performance in the outstanding Raisin in the Sun. His recent theatre includes Loot (Tricycle) and Iya Lle (Soho). His extensive TV work includes My Family and Horrible Histories.


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Inside: Blackta A Young Vic Production By Nathaniel Martello-White

OLDER BLACK Leo Wringer returns to the Young Vic to play Older Black. Recent theatre includes playing the title role in Othello (Lyric) and performances in Beauty and the Beast (Lyric), The Wheel (Traverse) and Macbeth (Odyssey). He played Jasperino in the film version of The Changeling. His television work includes Law and Order and Silent Witness.

YOUNGER BLACK This is Michael Oku’s debut professional production.

Anthony Welsh, Javone Prince, Daniel Francis and Michael Oku: in conversation with Roy Alexander Weise RW: AW:


How long have you been acting and what would you say you were most proud of in your career up to date? I started acting in 2003/4, did some part time courses then went to a drama school called LAMDA, which Daniel and Javone actually went to. I graduated in 2008, so I’ve worked for four years professionally. And the thing I’m probably most proud of is... well there’s two things, the first play I did, which was with Daniel, The Brothers Size, it was the first professional thing I ever did and that was a beautiful play, took us around a lot of places including The Young Vic! And the second is Sucker Punch at The Royal Court. I’ve been acting now for ten years. I left LAMDA in 2002. It’s my tenth year, time goes quick! So I went to college, a performing arts college and I didn’t know about drama schools, I didn’t know there were drama schools, like RADA, LAMDA, Guildhall and all that. Then there was an outreach worker that came to our college and she was talking about LAMDA basically, and she handed me a prospectus and I looked at it and I was


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Inside: Blackta A Young Vic Production By Nathaniel Martello-White like, "right, this looks amazing!" So I filled out the application form, sent it off and a reply came back. When I got there (for auditions), I realized there was so much out there but I’d had no information about how to get into acting, at all. It was just by chance I went to that college and by chance I didn’t bunk college that day and that she came in and told me about LAMDA and then everything was great from there. The jobs that I loved, I don’t know, well I did Mandalae, which was a great experience. Step Right of Regret, I loved doing that. Then Phoneshop which me and my friend from drama school helped create. DF:

I’ve been five years professional, I graduated just a year before Anthony in 2007. And it’s the same thing as Javone, I didn’t go to college, and I didn’t know about the drama school thing. I went to this youth centre called Pyramid Young Initiatives in Clapham. Fortunately, they had some good drama teachers there. There was this was drama teacher, black lady, who had gone to Central, and that was the first time I realized, "Wow, there’s something I enjoy doing." I was about sixteen at the time. I was starting to go to classes and auditions on my own. I wasn’t being forced to go, I would just go, get there on time, do my own work, it was my own thing. She saw my dedication and said "You should go for it." First time I auditioned for drama school when I was about 18, I got into Guildhall. I got there and I was overwhelmed. They were saying it was four grand a year and I just thought, "where am I gonna get that money from?" So I just didn’t go. So I stepped out and I did two years of other stuff like marketing and stuff but it kept calling me. So I auditioned again and this time I got into LAMDA, when I was about 21. At the end, I got my first job and I left a term early to go to the RSC. Anthony Welsh (Brown) and Javone Prince (Dull I had never done Shakespeare Brown) before I went to LAMDA, for me, that was a very proud moment. I


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Inside: Blackta A Young Vic Production By Nathaniel Martello-White had all these people around me who were Oxford graduates, Cambridge graduates and I’d never done it before, so I thought, I’ve gotta do this. I worked really hard, all the time, after school I would just like bang it out. I was like “wow, this is a proud moment.” RW: DF:

What is your biggest fear/anxiety as an actor? I know that for me, it would be not reaching my full potential in my career and feeling limited. Like if you wanna play Hamlet and all those roles that are the classic roles, but you’ve gotta be a certain age or whatever. So if you’ve past that certain age and then you’re black, when are you gonna the opportunity to play those roles? Get the material to cut your teeth on? How are you gonna sharpen your skill? Do you know what I mean? So you see, if I’m in an over-reactive state, I think "f**k"! That is my biggest anxiety, if I don’t get the roles to hold my skill, to push myself, stretch myself as an actor, as a person, as a man, then ultimately, how do you reach so high?


I remember doing stage combat at drama school, smashing stage combat, I mean I was just sick at it, they were like “you’re so good at this”, and I just thought to myself, whenever is man gonna wield a sword? Are they gonna write your stories? No, we have to write the stories. So then you think, right, I’m gonna write this story but then who’s gonna commission it to make it, give you the money to make it? You have to be on a certain level for them to back you so the fear and anxiety is that I need to get to that level, so stories like that can be told. And it’s like everyone wants to smash it, we all want to smash it, I want to smash it. I want to knock it out of the park!

Daniel Francis (Black) and Howard Charles (Yellow)


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Inside: Blackta A Young Vic Production By Nathaniel Martello-White RW: JP:

So it’s a similar anxiety to Daniel? I wanna be like, I’m so up there, I can’t go any higher, flip over Saturn, come back to the earth so I can start making stuff. I don’t just wanna be like, “yea I’m heavy at acting. I wanna make stuff, I wanna create stuff. I wanna tell stories that other people can’t tell. If I hear someone’s story and I really agree with that story, I wanna have enough power to say, “I’ll get that done for him”. I wanna own it like a Jay-Z. I wanna own my own production company or something, I wanna say BOOM, that idea is big enough. It’s a story, it’s not about the race or anything like that”. In the TV industry or the film industry, sometimes they think the audience members are idiots and they feed them the same stuff over and over again. And I watch it. I watch television and I just think this is so sloppy, like put together really quick. But if we start creating….


Two quick things, one is, literally on a performance level, not knowing my lines, and the other one, this is a bit deeper, it’s not becoming what I told myself I would be when I was a kid.


It’s that fear of just - I don’t wanna say that I did just one thing. If I look years down and my friend says “Ah, remember when you tried to be an actor”. I don’t want that.


Remember when you were at drama school, and you read a play, and it’s a new play, and you look at the front page and you see the names on it. At drama school I used to read them, and you know how it says ‘original cast’. So I was like right, “whose my man, whose my man, whose my man?” I googled some of them and I was wow, that was your one thing, you just did that! I remember the first time being in a new play with my name on the thing, and I thought that’s gonna be me, I’m gonna be that guy, it could possibly be me... and that’s quite scary as well. I mean there are loads of things. Also like not being on stage on time. Being late, not being there on the right time. I’ve had nightmares about being late on stage, about not being there when I’m meant to be on!


Directors can have a lot of power, to push casting directors to show them who else is out there. Do you think there are enough directors who want to change the infrastructure of the theatre world? You have to find someone who already has a belly full, who is already established, and now is someone who wants to fight for a bigger cause. I mean like David [Lan], to put this show on and to back it. There’s risk, I mean it’s a business at the same time and there’s a business aspect of the Young Vic as well. So talking about changing the infrastructure of the system, you need people who are already established, like they’re not thinking “if I don’t get this right, I ain’t in...” But it’s not easy man, it’s not an easy role to pursue, it’s not a hat you can just put on. It’s something that is just inside someone’s gut.



Ok, “I’m not black, why should I care about this play and what will I get from it”?


In essence, it’s about a group of people who feel like they have been compartmentalized. They feel like they have been put into a box and are crying out for help or change or


November 2012

Inside: Blackta A Young Vic Production By Nathaniel Martello-White recognition and that theme goes for everybody. Because whether you’re female or it’s your religion or your age, it’s about so much more. It just so happens that that story is told through young black men. JP:

Yes, but it could easily transfer to women. Sexism. It could be any group of people in that situation. I think the message for a non-black person is just to maybe open your eyes and see, you know, from another person’s side of view and have a new thought, a new way of thinking.


For me as well, I’d say the universal message, what strikes me is that when this is all you have, there’s only one option, when your back’s to a wall and you have no other choice and losing equals death. What are you willing to do? What are you going to do? How far are you willing to go? You know what I mean? When the stakes are that high, these characters are on life and death, you know what I mean? This is it. They don’t have no back up plan, they don’t have any other options. It’s this thing or I’m dying. That final.


You’re right. It is that final. You know like a footballer, that’s your thing, if you’re going t o be a footballer. You ain’t done nothing else.


You ain’t done college, you ain’t done uni...

Anthony Welsh (Brown)


November 2012

Inside: Blackta A Young Vic Production By Nathaniel Martello-White JP:

That is such a good point because I didn’t do school. I went to school, but I was like no. I went to college, but I wanted to be an actor. Whatever you’re trying to teach me, I’ll do it but in my head, this is what I want to do and if this doesn’t happen for me, I’ve got nothing to fall back on. This is it. This is life or death and if it doesn’t happen, I’m dead. Even if I’m still alive, I’m dead.


It’s about passion. You see so many people that are living without passion and that’s one of the things I’ve got for the characters, the love that I’ve got for all the characters is their passion. They’re brave enough to live on the path of passion. So it’s interesting what happens when you’re passion is taken away from you. How do you continue and exist? Often people are willing to compromise their passion, or they have a fear of going for their passion. So the thing about these characters, they’re striving for that passion. They’re saying “actually, no, I can’t compromise that passion, I can’t go down some other path, I can’t sit in an office, that will not do. I would rather die.” That’s the universal thing.


But that’s what you say to some young actors as well. How bad do you want it? I remember meeting Jeremy Irons and I told him I want to get into acting, so he goes “You want to be an actor” and I said, “Yes, I wanna be an actor” and he said, ok, “do you have a garden?”… I laughed, like “no! I live in a council flat innit.” He said, “Ok, imagine you had a garden, and you put the seeds in and you have to, put the fertiliser on it and you have water it. You keep on watering it till it grows. Then it grows into this beautiful thing that you want.” I thought, you know what, you’re right, if you want to do this, you start off from the beginning and you get all the nurturing you need.


November 2012

Inside: Blackta A Young Vic Production By Nathaniel Martello-White Part 2: Making Blackta 5. Annotated Script Below is an example of Matthew Xia’s annotated script. Throughout the process the company will make notes on their text to help them unpack the meaning of the words.


November 2012

Inside: Blackta A Young Vic Production By Nathaniel Martello-White Part 2: Making Blackta 6. Rehearsal Diary: Day One by Matthew Xia Below is the Assistant Director’s record of the first day of rehearsals. 17th September 2012 The Set has already been built. Warm Up with Joseph Alford (Movement Director) o All over body rubbing o Imagination of movement and stretching o Actual stretch and full range of motion Exploration of space o Walk about – filling space – awareness of room and people in it o Making eye contact o Creating an elastic connection between performers - how does elasticity affect movement? o Passing a ball around – first time with eye contact, second time without eye contact Introduction of set / model box with Jeremy Herbert (Designer) o David is keen that even though the set has been built we start on the floor without the set – so as not to think of the work in terms of moves and to find out what underpins the play Introduction by Chloe Lamford (Costume Designer) o She talks through her process for this show o A rail of clothes is provided o The actors are encouraged to play with these costume and accessories as we move through the rehearsal David then leads a conversation encouraging the actors to talk about their worst audition experiences. David then asks the actors to recreate some of the audition moments. o Some interesting lines come out e.g “it’s that passive aggressive thing looking at me”, “we love this thing so much, it’s precious” David questions the thoughts which sit underneath the improvisation o Why didn’t you stay in the room? o Whats happening now? o Can you show us?


November 2012

Inside: Blackta A Young Vic Production By Nathaniel Martello-White David spots that in one story – the actor blames himself. In another story the actor turned his anger outwards. David pushes the questions David: When you hear them say that – what do you feel? Actor: I get angry David: With who? In the afternoon we start at pg 43 (Act 4). David explains that he has broken the text into units / scenes. There is discussion of time / place / day / season. There is a round table discussion around sc.18. We break down the components that make up the scene o Relationships o Objectives o Politics o Social Context Joseph pulls out the words that have come up during the day, which begin to make sense of how the play makes the company feel o Indignant o Cheapened o Shame o Embarrassment o Betrayal o Worthless o Angered o Dismayed o Disrespected


November 2012

Inside: Blackta A Young Vic Production By Nathaniel Martello-White Part 2: Making Blackta 7. The Assistant Director’s Notes During the rehearsal process the assistant director will make notes of their thoughts and observations as well as recording the director’s comments and stage directions. These pages cover the first day of rehearsals, as described in the pervious section of this pack.


November 2012

Inside: Blackta A Young Vic Production By Nathaniel Martello-White Part 2: Making Blackta 6. Task Ideas from the Blackta Devising Week During the research and development period Joseph Lanford from Theatre O ( led a week of research with a group of improvisers. They experimented with ideas for the ‘tasks’, which the characters perform for The Thing. As part of their research they experimented with performing eating a piece of fruit. Below are some notes from their experiments.

Present: Joseph (Director) Dominic (Performer) Ava (Work Experience) Chloe (Designer) Nathaniel (Writer)

Types of Task Banal Ridiculous Absurd Urgent Daring Transformative

Treatment of Task Speed Emotion Dynamic Health

Carolina (Performer) Leena (Performer Matthew Xia (Ass Dir) David Lan (Director)

Humiliating Acrobatic Purely Physical Confessional Provocative

Highly Skilled Danced Unreasonable Satisfying Endurance

Poetic Surprising Arbitrary Cognitive Irreversible

Rhythm Completion Economy Awareness

Placement Precision Commitment

Ability Scale Visibility


November 2012

Inside: Blackta A Young Vic Production By Nathaniel Martello-White Part 3: Black theatre and its history A detailed timeline of Black British History is available in the resource pack for A Raisin In The Sun, which can be downloaded from the Young Vic website or requested via emailing Below is an extract from a Research project by Roy Alexander Weise WHAT DOES BLACK THEATRE DO TODAY? Today Black theatre is established both on the fringe and in the mainstream. It is presented differently in many forms. There are still companies that put on black productions of classic European texts and classic African texts. There are companies that specialise in new Black writing and the development of emerging black writers. There is a more established cohort of Black British writers including the likes of Kwame Kwei-Armah, Roy Williams, Michael Bhim, Bola Agbaje and Debbie Tucker-Green to name a few of the most successful, who have had their work produced at leading venues such as the National Theatre, Soho Theatre, Royal Court Theatre and Nottingham Playhouse. There are established theatre directors such as Paulette Randall, Bert Caesar and Felix Cross; established and world famous Black British actors like Adrian Leicester, Idris Elba, David Harewood, Chiwetel Ejiofor and rising stars Jimmy Akingbola, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Javone Prince, Nathaniel Martello-White. There is voice in all creative processes for Black artists but several Black artists are now dissatisfied with the reputation that Black theatre now holds, "the Ghetto theatre" and the tiresome issues of gun and knife crime being at the forefront of Black British theatre. Black theatre in the mainstream has consisted too often of stories that that do not give a well-balanced view of the black British experience. The most popular plays from current black artists are stories from inner city London. Stories which are about the struggles of particular groups of black people living in underprivileged areas where they feel stuck by a system and cannot get out of the cycles of violence, poverty, underage pregnancy, alcoholism, drug addiction. These are all issues that face working class Britain and not just black people but all too often, we are shown that these are the only issues that black people face. There is often not enough in-depth interrogation as to why these problems particularly are present in the black communities but there are many plays that search for solutions to these. The Young Vic is known for the diverse cultural discussions and representations that are explored. Plays like 'In the Red and Brown Water' and 'Joe Turner's Come and Gone' has placed the Young Vic (in the minds of black artists) as a venue that celebrates the work of Black artists. Sue Emmas, Associate Artistic Director of the Young Vic responds:

"We have no intention to fulfill any cultural diversity policy or agenda, we put on work that is brave and bold, we put on work that will challenge our audiences but more importantly we look for good stories that can stand the test of time. We don't just look at what we put in our theatres but we look at the people who surround our theatres. We are based on the cusp of Lambeth and Southwark and we work to get everybody in this area to the theatre. We offer free tickets to residents of Southwark to all of our shows and do not target black audiences only when black shows come to our theatre."


November 2012

Inside: Blackta A Young Vic Production By Nathaniel Martello-White Theatre in its nature is forever changing. It is historically known for breaking barriers in interesting and radical ways. It is a platform in which artists can be political. Theatre is known for its shock value, for the way it can hit the human core in an instant, for the way that it can evoke physical and psychological change and reaction through spectacle and emotion. The engagement that must be made with the imagination in theatre promotes individualism, freethinking, social and political deconstruction and prompts one to find meaning.


November 2012

Inside: Blackta A Young Vic Production By Nathaniel Martello-White Part 5. Further Exercises and Reading 1. Exercises This section should hopefully give you an extra set of tools to continue exploring the themes and the process but in a more practical way. Some of the exercises are best done alone and others are great for group work. Take them as you like, add your own twist to it, take it further and create your own too. Ambition (30mins) Part 1: (10mins)  Lay on the ground, flat, palms open (do not fall asleep) and shut your eyes.  Breathe in deep and exhale.  Conjure an image of yourself, laid on the floor (right now). Like a bird’s eye view shot of this very moment (imagine the camera is on the ceiling).  Imagine yourself and what you might look like a year from now. What are you wearing? What are you doing? How do you feel?  Let that image go. Think of a blank canvas.  Imagine what you will look like in 5 years time. Again, what are you wearing? What are you doing? How do you feel?  Let that image go and now imagine what you will look like in 10 years time. Repeat the same questions as above.  Let the image go. Start to wiggle your toes and get the blood flowing through your body. Turn onto your side and sit up slowly. Part 2: (10 mins) Discuss. Share as much or as little as you like about the images. Don’t try too hard to interpret them. Just acknowledge the image and describe it in as much detail as you can. Are any images similar to others? Part 3: (10mins) Privately now, on a piece of paper, answer the following questions:    

What do you want to be? What challenges/obstacles do you think you will face on the journey to achieving your goal? What practical steps or preparation do you think you can take to overcome the obstacles? What do you need to do mentally to achieve these?


November 2012

Inside: Blackta A Young Vic Production By Nathaniel Martello-White Reviews Search online for three Blackta reviews - you will find several results on Google. Read them and discuss whether you agree or disagree with them. Please bear in mind who wrote the review, who you think the intended audience is, the artists involved in the production, the cost of the ticket and the venue that it is performed in. After discussing write your own review of the production. Please be as opinionated as possible and as honest as possible. Please consider: 

What you found effective in the production and what you found less effective

The acting - research actor’s names and discuss the physical and vocal choices they made and how they communicated character

The set, costumes, lighting or any other elements of the production and how this impacted on the storytelling and your experience as an audience member

The story. Think about how clear the story was and the emotional impact it had on you

What you think the playwright and director were intending and whether you think it was achieved

Whether or not the cost of the ticket was worth it

Whether or not you'd recommend it to others. Try to identify an audience that might particularly enjoy or gain from the experience

Make your own ‘Blackta’ 45 mins (including performance time) Part 1: (5 mins) In groups of no more than 4-5 people, take the following themes and discuss how you might relate to each one and what each one means to you:       

Dreams Competition Racism, prejudice and discrimination (positive/negative) Identity Sex, sexuality and masculinity Feeling trapped and being free/ being trapped and feeling free Past versus Present/ Young versus Old/ Old versus New


November 2012

Inside: Blackta A Young Vic Production By Nathaniel Martello-White

Part 2: (5 mins) Create a tableau (still image) for each theme. Consider:  Who is in the still image?  Who might be affected?  Age?  How do they move?  How do they feel? Create one line that tells an audience who they are. Try to explore showing in the character’s pose. Show tableau to the rest of the group. Part 3: (20 mins) Then choose one tableau and put each character in the tableau in a scene of their own.  Choose a location, a time of day, time of year.  Think about why they are there and what they want.  Who do they want it from?  Who else is there?  What are their obstacles?  How might they go about getting what they want? Is this action/method physical or mental?  Do they get what they want in the end?  How do they feel at the end? Final Rule: Everybody must have at least one line and no more that 2 lines each. Every line must serve a purpose in the story. Think about how your line pushes the plot along. Feel free to explore the whole scene with as many words/lines as you like through improvising the scenario. When you come to show it to the rest of your group/class, there must be no more that 2 lines from each character.


November 2012

Inside: Blackta A Young Vic Production By Nathaniel Martello-White Further Reading Books  Bourne, Stephen. Black in the British Frame: The Black Experience in British Film and Television. 2nd edn. London: Continuum, 2001.  Tompsett, A. Ruth, ed. Black Theatre in Britain. in 'Performing Arts International'. 1996, vol. I, part 2 Website  Guardian Stage, “Sixty years of forgotten theatre”, Web Page, 2009 (Accessed 30th April 2011), available at  Legacy Media Institute, “LMI Mission”, Web Page, 2011 (Accessed 30th April 2011) , available at  Ofcom, “Ofcom Facts & Figures”, Web Page, 2010 (Accessed 2nd May 2011), available at  Blue Mountain Theatre “About Us”, Web Page, 2010 (Accessed 2nd May 2011), available at  Talawa “About Talawa”, Web Page, 2011 (Accessed 21st April 2011), available at  Opera and Music Theatre forum “Nitro”, Web Page, 2004 (Accessed 21st April 2011), available at  Theatre Memorabilia “Black and White Minstrel Show”, Web Page, 2011 (Accessed 21st April 2011), available at  Culture and Festivals “Black Theatre in Britain”, Web Page, 2001 (Accessed 15th December 2010), available at


November 2012

Inside: Blackta  

An insider's guide to the Young Vic's production of Blackta, 2012

Inside: Blackta  

An insider's guide to the Young Vic's production of Blackta, 2012