If you google “Black LGBTQ+ Playwrights”, there are several lists compiling the work of American playwrights, but I was hard-pushed to find any compiling the work of British playwrights.
From the Theatre of Black Women to Travis Alabanza, from Rikki Beadle Blair to Temi Wilkey, Britain does have its own history of Black British LGBTQ+ playwrights. This list compiles my top 5 picks for plays written by Black British LGBTQ+ playwrights that you can easily purchase online and read this month …
Chiaroscuro by Jackie Kay
Last performed at the Bush theatre in 2019, Chiaroscuro follows Aisha, Beth, Opal and Yomi – four women of colour who are respectively of Mixed Race, Black and Asian descent. The play explores colourism, loss of the mother tongue, and homosexuality within the Black community.
When Beth hosts a dinner for the four women, things get heated when Yomi expresses that lesbians are unnatural, unaware that her friends Beth and Opal are in a relationship…
The High Table by Temi Wilkey
Most recently performed at the Bush Theatre in 2020, The High Table follows Leah and Tara as they prepare for their wedding. The dresses are chosen, the venue’s been booked and the RSVPs are flooding in. The only problem is: Tara’s Nigerian parents refuse to attend. This kind of love is unheard of, they say. It’s not African.
High above London, suspended between the stars, three of Tara’s ancestors are jolted from their eternal rest. Stubborn and opinionated, they keep watch as family secrets are spilled and the rift widens between Tara and her parents. Can these representatives of generations passed keep the family together? And will Tara’s decision ever get their blessing?
Boy With Beer by Paul Boakye
Described as “Black Britain’s first gay drama” and most recently performed at the King’s Head Theatre in 2016, Boy with Beer is the story of a growing love affair between Ghanaian photographer, Karl, and Caribbean van driver, Donovan.
Against a background of prejudice, the pressures of machismo, and HIV/AIDS, the audience follows Karl and Donovan from their first unromantic, unprotected coupling to their final admission of love.
Playscript is available via Amazon.
Fit by Rikki Beadle-Blair
Originally commissioned by Manchester-based arts organisation Queer up North, and gay equality organisation Stonewall to tackle homophobic bullying in Britain’s schools, Fit follows the lives of a group of young people as they navigate their way through life, love and relationships. Karmel likes make-up and trendy clothes, yet she also likes girls. Ironically, her straight best friend Lee is the butt of homophobic jokes. Ryan is one of the lads. Computer games, beer, and bullying are the name of his game, yet a secret crush on class outcast Tegs threatens to blow his cover, especially as fellow pupil Jordan shares the same object of desire.
Playscript is available via Kobo, Bloomsbury, and Amazon.
Burgerz by Travis Alabanza
Winner of both the Total Theatre Award and shortlisted for the Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh Award in 2019, Burgerz follows performance artist Travis Alabanza as they develop an obsession with burgers after someone threw a burger at them and shouted a transphobic slur.
Burgerz is the climax of their obsession – exploring how trans and gender non-conforming bodies exist and how, by them reclaiming an act of violence, we can address our own complicity.
Playscript is available via Apple Books, Amazon, and Waterstones.