Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu is a writer, director and performer whose work has been staged at The Royal Court, Bush Theatre and Ovalhouse.
After directing a production of Bola Agbaje’s Gone Too Far! at Guildhall School of Music & Drama earlier this year, Fynn-Aiduenu returns this Autumn with Ryan Calais Cameron’s For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy at the New Diorama Theatre and Sundown Kiki at the Young Vic.
For Black Boys… is a profound, poetic and playful new production centred around mental health in young Black men that sees six young Black men collide in a theatrical group therapy session, letting their hearts – and imaginations – run wild.
We caught up with Tristan to find out more…
Please introduce yourself?
My name is Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu, I am a British-Ghanaian and I am a Theatremaker & Filmmaker.
Please share a word or sentence which best describes your life right now.
Your love is my love, and my love is your love.
On your website, you share how you were first introduced to theatre when your Sensei gave you a form about a summer youth theatre project. What inspires you to keep working as a writer and director creating stories today?
At that time when that Sensei gave me that form, I did not realise other people saw latent creative energy in me that I didn’t. Over the past 10 years, I have gotten to grips with that energy and imagination of mine – that’s what kept me going: discovering. I am still discovering who I am, and I know that will change in time but at the moment what inspires me to write and direct is connecting those parts of my imagination with other people and helping each other heal via that connection.
Do you feel that the Covid-19 pandemic has in any way affected the kind of stories you want to tell or see staged?
I feel like the “Panasonic” (I love Black Twitter for that) made me question why I care about theatre in the first place. It was disheartening to see many organisations go down, but even more disheartening to see very low level or non-existent moves from some of these same organisations to try and really re-connect with the many communities that made them who they are.
I mean, I’m talking about what is theatre when a show is not on? What else can be done? How else do you generate discussions on access? Access is more than inclusion or diversity because access is about sustainable long-term changes that have a legacy for those who do not get the same access to theatre i.e. Black People, People with disabilities etc. And then, as soon as we thought the “Panasonic” had ended, some theatres reverted right back to where we were before…which was NEVER A GOOD PLACE IN THE FIRST PLACE. So, I guess how this time has affected me most is about how and why the stories are told, as well as what stories are told.
Let’s talk about For Black Boys. Conceptualised in the wake of the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2013, Ryan Calais Cameron began writing For Black Boys when he realised that no one had asked him how he was feeling until he was 26 years old. Is this an experience you can also identify with?
In the wake of Trayvon Martin (R.I.P.), I was in university in my first year. Around that time, my eyes and my anger really started to open as to what being Black, especially Black & British, really meant to the outside world. It meant a dissection and appropriation of trauma that -even we as Black People – are unable to truly get to the bottom depth of how destructive that trauma is. So, with Trayvon Martin, it was more about me having to truly and deeply ask MYSELF how I was feeling about being Black, British & a Man. At this point in time, how I am feeling about that intersection – adding that I am of West African Descent & Queer – I feel heavy with an engine that purrs deep in me and makes me want to raise our cities to the ground sometimes but also use it to build a brand-new Kingdom. Whichever way the fuel takes me, it always feels heavy. Powerful, sparky and soulful.
In 2018, For Black Boys was developed by bringing together young Black men to share experiences supported by specialist and mental health partners (including the SMILEing Boys Project). Were you part of these conversations? What did you learn from them?
I was not a part of these conversations, but I have been following the SMILEing boys project for a little while now and I love the concept.
For Black Boys forsakes linear narratives in pursuit of a diffuse storytelling practice – what was your experience directing this form of theatre?
Funny enough, this is more of what I am used to. Being a part of the company Initiative.dkf (led by the amazing DK Fashola) really taught me about the blending of styles without relying on a traditional singular plot. I also grew up in Youth Theatre, which was mostly devising many different story strands together (cos everyone is fighting for stage time). This and remembering, first and foremost, that theatre is an event helped me see this play differently. It is not necessarily about making it all make sense, it was more about ensuring that each story got the appropriate space and dedication in the wider conversation we were all having in the theatre. Infusing it with the music and movement written in the script really helped bring this dedicated space to life. It becomes a cabaret of stories and a fantasia of a Black Boys’ imagination. You won’t connect to everything, but you will most definitely feel there is something in there for you.
What do you hope audiences take away from performances of For Black Boys?
I hope audiences watch this show, watch all the light and dark parts of Black Boys’ minds, find something they connect to and ensure a Black man or Boy in their life comes to see it because of that connection.
In November, another play you are directing, Sundown Kiki, will also be staged. How does Sundown Kiki compare to For Black Boys? What has it been like directing both plays almost simultaneously?
Sundown Kiki is all about celebrating and giving space for Queer, Global Majority brilliance via theatre and Ballroom culture. Unlike For Black Boys, Sundown Kiki is devised from scratch and that in itself has allowed me to do both at the same time because they are not the same kind of work. However, what they both share is a want to ensure that the wildness of their majority Black casts is appreciated, divulged and put on blast. They both share a want to heal the communities that have made them by giving them a utopia where anything is anything you want it to be and it is solely for US.
Have you got any other projects on the horizon that you’re excited about?
A few things: I have a short film about sensuality that I want to get off the ground; a project with a few drama schools, starting with Arts Ed where I am writing and directing global majority epics based on British classics; I’m also an associate of Brixton House and am looking at setting up opportunities and events for the people of Brixton and I’m trying to stay alive and drink water every day ….so yeah, a few things!
GETTING TO KNOW YOU…
- A book you have to have in your collection? Sweet Like Chocolate Boy by Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu
- A song/album that defines the soundtrack of your life to date? A song would literally be Sweet Like Chocolate Boy by Shanks and Bigfoot. An album would be either Bubba by Kaytranda or All About The Stragglers by Artful Dodger
- A film / TV show that you can watch/have watched repeatedly? The film Hero by Jet Li and the series LoveCraft Country
- The first stage production you saw and what it meant to you (play, dance or concert)? The first stage production I ever saw was The King and I at the London Palladium. I fell asleep halfway but it was fun whilst I was awake.
- What’s made you sad, mad, and glad this week? Sad – Unpacking what it is to “Long” for something with my therapist. Mad- Being poor and sometimes feeling like my life of comfortability lies in the hands of people having to “like” me. Glad – Feeling what it is like to be part of 2 productions where I can be Black, vulnerable and find strength in that.
Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu directed For Black Boys which is being staged at The New Diorama Theatre until 6 November. Link here