Lynette Goddard Talks … ‘Black British Queer Plays and Practitioners’

Black British Queer Plays and Practitioners: An Anthology of Afriquia Theatre

is a bold play collection representing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ+) experiences from Black British perspectives, this anthology contains seven radical plays by Black writers that change the face of theatre in Britain.

The collection captures the historical scope and range of Black British LGBTIQ+ theatre, from the 1980s to 2021.

We spoke to Lynette Goddard one of the curators of the Anthology about the journey to publication and the importance of the anthology …

Please introduce yourself …

I am Lynette Goddard aka Lennox; I am a Professor of Black Theatre and Performance in the Department of Drama, Theatre and Dance at Royal Holloway, University of London. I teach and research Black British theatre since the 1980s. My academic articles and books about contemporary Black British playwrights and playwriting explores identity politics, the politics of race and representation, innovative styles of writing, and consider how Black theatre acts as a form of activism.

Why Black British Queer Plays and Practitioners: An Anthology of Afriquia Theatre?

Mojisola and I have been talking about creating an anthology and critical reflections of Black Queer plays for the best part of ten years. My PhD was on Black lesbian theatre in Britain in the 1980s and 1990s and Mojisola was also researching a PhD on Black British Afriquia Theatre. We felt that we had got to a point where there were enough plays past and present to bring together in an anthology to see how the theatre practice of Black queer, trans and non-binary practitioners have developed over the years since the early works. We wanted to create a resource that would promote them being read, studied and performed. We were keen to have well-established Black queer practitioners in conversation with twenty-first-century voices to reflect on the history of Black British queer theatre and its future. There were some key plays that we couldn’t include in the anthology, which are discussed in the introduction, which surveys the history of the form from the 1980s to the present and are reflected upon in the roundtable discussions, segments of which are interspersed throughout the plays in the book.

Tell us about your writing process …

We met on Zoom to develop the project. We wrote some sections together using a shared Google doc. We also went away and worked on sections individually and then shared these with each other for input. We were both happy to amend each other’s work and to accept suggestions and adjustments from each other. The introduction is largely based on materials from Moj’s PhD with some input from my PhD of two decades ago. I focused a lot on the transcription and editing of the roundtable discussion and we both worked together to think about how these sections would work best within the overall shape of the book.

How did you find your publisher?

Bloomsbury Methuen were very supportive in getting the book out into the world. As had been talking about this project for a long time, finding the right publisher to support a critical anthology has been key. Most of the Black British queer plays in the 1980s and 1990s were published by Bloomsbury and the twenty-first century plays by Oberon. So when Bloomsbury took over Oberon’s list it seemed like a good time to revisit this project idea. Both Mojisola and I knew many of the practitioners already and the publishers helped us reach out to those we didn’t. We had a few knockbacks getting this work published – feedback being that Black British queer plays are too niche and that this is not an area where books can sell. I’m glad that Bloomsbury Methuen saw the value in our project and produced a beautiful book that is huge in size and has a wonderful cover image.

What does Black British Queer Plays and Practitioners: An Anthology of Afriquia Theatre mean to you personally?

I’m very proud of this book, especially given the long journey we had to persevere to get it out. I’ve published quite a few academic articles on Black work and it’s really important to me that this is an anthology of plays with first-hand reflections from the practitioners who made and produced them. I also enjoyed working with Mojisola on this project. We’ve known each other a long time and are inspired by each other’s work, so the opportunity to develop and deliver something together has been quite unique.

Why should we read Black British Queer Plays …?

You’ll see a range of Black British queer characters, Black British queer experiences and Afriquia diasporic connections. Read the introduction to learn about the contexts in which Black queer work has been produced in Britain over the past four decades. And read the roundtable discussions for the practitioners’ first-hand thoughts on their own and each others’ work. For me, the roundtable is invaluable as an oral account of our histories, in our own words and the sounds of our voices. It was a fun experience to be part of and I think the book captures this well.

What’s next?

I’m currently researching Black British theatre directors with a focus on the career of Paulette Randall and questions of access and inclusion for Black directors in the British theatre industry. This project also looks back across four decades from the early 1980s to the present and will have some oral history elements to it also. It’s a slow-burn project so watch this space.

How do we keep up to date with you and your work?

[socials] @lenigoddard on Twitter (though I’m not on it much) and my university’s page: Royal Holloway

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