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How to make sense of ‘self’

A SENSE OF SELF: Anthony Ofoegbu as Fidel in Conundrum [Photo credit: Trevor Blackwood]

THIS MONTH, Certain Blacks, a new arts development organisation formed to support the growth of diverse artists, presents the inaugural Art Ensemble festival at east London’s Rich Mix.

Art Ensemble showcases a range of powerful and sometimes uncompromising work. Performances come courtesy of Lady Vendredi on July 8, Franko B on July 10 and Crying In The Wilderness on July 12.

On this innovative new organisation and their forthcoming festival, Certain Blacks founder Clive Lyttle tells The Voice: “Certain Blacks is named after the Art Ensemble of Chicago’s song of the same name. The tune has a refrain, ‘Certain Blacks, do what they want to’. This was the ethos I had when I started the organisation. I wanted a place where diverse creativity was not directed, or told, but free to express itself, very like the free Jazz created by Art Ensemble of Chicago.”

He continues: “As artistic director, and founder, of Certain Blacks I wanted to develop an organisation that looked beyond the usual definitions of diverse artistic work and presented the best in theatre, music and performance for audiences. By presenting a programme that includes immersive performance, live art and ‘theatre of the soul,’ Certain Blacks aims to present a range of challenging and engaging work that is both entertaining and thought provoking.”

A new theatre piece examining the nature of ‘self’, is proving that silence truly is golden.

Presented by London-based theatre company Crying in the Wilderness, Conundrum will be performed on July 12 as part of the Art Ensemble festival.

The play follows Fidel who embarks upon a ‘life review’ in search of answers. Despite possessing an exceptional IQ, Fidel, brought to life by actor Anthony Ofoegbu, has spent much of his life drifting between careers and enduring long periods of silence. It is during one of his self-imposed silences that Fidel identifies where his greatest battle for self-worth, acceptance and happiness has to be fought.

FOUNDER: Crying in The Wilderness founder Paul Morris [Photo credit: Anthony Ofoegbu]

First developed at the Bush Theatre in west London, Conundrum features live music from esteemed jazz artist Byron Wallen who says: “I’m looking forward to exploring through composition, the contradictions and multiplicities of this unique work.”

Here, Crying in The Wilderness founder Paul Morris explains why he started his own theatre company and discusses the new play:

Why did you start Crying in the Wilderness?
One of the aims of creating the company Crying In The Wilderness was to produce plays to counter the imbalance between male and female performers in leading roles on stage. Our goal was not only to address the numerical imbalance but the content also, to write characters for women who are intellectually dynamic and resourceful and iconic.

What’s Conundrum about?
It’s a story about a young man with an incredibly high IQ who is forced to review his past in order to make some sense of his life. Through his life review, our protagonist Fidel played by actor Anthony Ofoegbu, offers a dramatic and alarming solution for overcoming our own personal challenges.

Conundrum is a multidisciplinary piece with drama, music, dance and mime at the heart of our storytelling. Our musical director is the extraordinary musician and composer Byron Wallen who will be experimenting with different types of musical genres and sounds. Our choreographer is award-winning Shane Shambhu who combines Bharatanatyam South Asian dance with contemporary dance to create an astonishing spectacle of movement, dance and mime.

What can audiences expect from the show?
I’ve been developing over the past couple of years a concept that I’ve coined ‘Theatre of the soul’. The idea is to really take our audiences on a journey that engages a whole range of feelings, emotions and states. That brings to the fore for examination, our beliefs, ambitions and relationships. So expect to experience beauty, to be challenged and to be profoundly moved.”

How does it feel to part of the inaugural Certain Blacks Art Ensemble festival?
It’s important that this festival grows and is supported by the media and the general public. There is a desire by Certain Blacks Art Ensemble to showcase a wider spectrum of the work of black artists. This is very important for companies like mine and the other theatre makers involved in the festival as it gives us a chance to engage with different types of audiences and see and support each other’s work within a non-competitive environment.

Conundrum plays at Rich Mix as part of Art Ensemble on July 12 at 7.30pm

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