Islington people: BBC director takes reins at Black-led theatre company

12:44 24 June 2012

Michael Buffong

Michael Buffong


»You’ve directed BBC dramas and dealt with top TV personalities. Where do you go next? A theatre company in Old Street might not seem like the most logical destination, but Michael Buffong is a man on a mission.

The newly-appointed artistic director of Talawa Theatre Company, who has shot episodes of Casualty, EastEnders and Holby City, can’t hide his excitement as he talks about his new role at the heart of an organisation that stands for what he believes in – the development and promotion of black-led theatre.

“It is a fantastic opportunity,” said Michael.

“We are right in the middle of where things are happening. Minority communities are under-represented, there is no doubt about that, but it’s a complex problem and there is no easy answer.”

Talawa Firsts, a series of plays designed to showcase scripts penned by budding playwrights, could be part of the solution.

The new studio season, which opened with the provocatively-titled DAD (DIE) earlier this month, sees young directors take centre-stage and Buffong is confident that the three-week programme of events will prove to be a success.

“These plays deserve to be shown,” he said.

“It’s also an opportunity for agents to see how good some of this work is and for less-experienced writers to spend time with other actors and directors.”

The first three Talawa First productions to be shown at the theatre, in East Road, Hoxton, focus on social issues such as gang violence and attitudes to homosexuality, which Michael sees as a sign of the times.

“There are lots of things that people want to talk about and theatre seems to be the place to address these issues,” he said.

The former Doctors director believes that the industry will continue to see plays which focus on these topics, particularly as people seek to make sense of last year’s riots.

“They were a major event in this country’s history and the issues will be discussed for some time to come,” he said.

Talawa are operating a “pay what you can” door policy, with any contributions from audience members going towards the refurbishment of the 40-seat Old Street studio.

The plays will also be streamed live on the company’s website.

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