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Spotlight on Eclipse Theatre: “telling Black Britain’s lost stories”

In January 2020, Stratford East welcomes Eclipse theatre company for the first time with their new production THE GIFT, written by Bruntwood Prize-winner Janice Okoh and directed by Dawn Walton.

The play is inspired by the extraordinary life of Sarah Bonetta Davies (also known as Sara Forbes Bonetta), a young West African girl who was ‘gifted’ to Queen Victoria in 1850 and subsequently became her goddaughter. Told in three acts across different time periods, Okoh’s dark comedy offers an insight into the world of cross-racial adoption, cultural appropriation and imperialist attitudes.

Since its inception in 2003, Eclipse has established itself as the foremost Black-led national production company in the UK. Its mission is to use the Black British experience to create new work that will enrich the stories told in mainstream media across theatre, film and radio.

The dissection of race is a central part of Eclipse’s work particularly through Revolution Mix, which places the Black narrative at the heart of British Theatre. This movement is spearheading the largest ever national delivery of new Black British productions, highlighting that Black British stories are so much more than slavery, immigration and teenage gang crime.

At a time when arts organisations are promising more diverse stories, Eclipse have continually delivered high-quality, meaningful work with recent hits Black Men Walking (★★★★★ The Stage), Princess & The Hustler (★★★★ The Times) and A Raisin in the Sun (nominated for UK Theatre ‘Best Touring Production’). As Walton has said:

“Revolution Mix is about doing not talking. When the subject of Diversity comes up – people gather in rooms and talk. If you sit in that room you will hear more reasons why things can’t change than why they can. But there is no question that there is an appetite for change. Revolution Mix is what we are all going to DO.”

Having led Eclipse since 2008, Walton recently passed the Artistic Director baton over to Amanda Huxtable, with Shawab Iqbal joining as Executive Producer (who was a former assistant producer at Stratford East).

With our own history of supporting Black and Asian artists and promoting stories not often seen on mainstream stages, we are thrilled to be working with Eclipse to bring you THE GIFT.

If you'd like to hear more from Dawn Walton and Janice Okoh then listen to their interview with Belgrade Theatre Coventry on the Stratford East Podcast.

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