GETTING TO KNOW … Nkenna Akunna

tiata fahodzi is the UK’s go-to for vibrant British African heritage theatre.
Their new season, ‘Coming Home,’ paints a picture of who we are and where we’re headed. This autumn, they’re back on tour, starting with the lively cheeky little brown by the talented Nkenna Akunna. We caught up with Nkenna for a quick chat about her play and what’s on her horizon …

Please introduce yourself …

My name is Nkenna Akunna, I’m a playwright and screenwriter and also a lecturer and sometimes a performer. I am Igbo Nigerian born and raised in London.

Describe your life right now in a word or one sentence …

Whirlwind.

What started you on this particular career path?

I started writing, first in a short story class taught by Bernadine Evaristo; it meant a lot to be taught by a Black British writer in that moment. I also took acting classes and then a playwriting class. During my final term at Uni, I realised that I liked writing plays and that’s how I kind of started.

Tiajna Amayo in Cheeky Little Brown – (c) Craig Fuller)

Tell us about your debut play cheeky little brown ...

cheeky little brown is an ode to your early twenties. It’s a play about heartbreak. Friendship breakups are at the centre of this play. It was a lot of fun writing it but also quite hard. I started writing this play during the top of the pandemic which was an extremely lonely time for everyone and quite intense for me as I was living alone in a new city in the United States. That sense of isolation really did find itself in the play as well.

How has it been collaborating with director Chino Odimba?

Working with Chino has been so lovely. She’s really great and when watching her work, it’s clear she knows what she is talking about. She is fearless and caring. I appreciate that in a director.

… and what does it means to be a part of tiata fahodzi’s ‘Coming Home’ season?

Honestly, I’m coming home. I’ve been based in New York so it means a lot to be part of this foundational African theatre company’s season about coming home. It feels good, it feels correct and it feels a nice way to usher in my debut.

Tiajna Amayo in Cheeky Little Brown – (c) Craig Fuller)
GETTING TO KNOW YOU …

What’s your current plan B?

To marry rich!

What’s made you Sad, Mad, Glad this week?

Sad, saying goodbye to friends in the States as I won’t be home for a while. Mad, just at the general state of the world and those within it who are making things harder for people than it needs to be. Glad, to be around my family, friends and community here and to see cheeky little brown on stage. I’m really excited about that.

What are you watching right now?

I’ve started the Housewives of Salt Lake City recently and fully caught up within the month of September which I shouldn’t be proud of.

What are you reading right now?

The Lido by Libby Page.

What are you listening to right now?

Journey in Satchidananda by Alice Coltrane. It just really chills me out and helps me fall asleep.

The last thing you saw on stage?

Jaja’s African Hair braiding on Broadaway which was a fun time by Jocelyn Bioh.

What’s on your bucket list?

I want to go to Cuba.

Where’s your happy place?

Surrounded by my friends. It’s so cheesy but it’s true.

Celebrate someone else …

I would celebrate Tiajna Amayo who is starring in cheeky little brown. She is amazing and I’m so excited to be having her reading my words.

Celebrate yourself …  

Listen, guys, it’s been a long time coming. This thing didn’t come out of nowhere. I’m doing a lot of work this year and I’m doing some TV and film work that I’m really proud of. I have this play on. I’ve just closed another show in New York at Soho Rep. I got a commission recently. I’m doing bits and bobs and I’m really proud of that.

Whose footsteps are you following in?

Writers who really are inspirational are Mfoniso Udofia, a Nigerian-American playwright and screenwriter and Bim
Adewunmi who is a British-Nigerian playwright, journalist and podcast maker working on This American Life.

What’s Next?

A few screen projects that I can hopefully share more about soon.

Where can we find you?

@nkenna_akunna although your girl is private so do with that what you will.

Where can we see you next?

At press night baby come through.


Cheeky Little Brown runs at the Bristol until 14th October before touring The Lowry, Belgrade Theatre and Derby Theatre until 3 November. Find out more here.

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