Playwright and scriptwriter Ade Solanke is passionate about telling the dynamic stories of the African Diaspora. Her long and impressive list of accolades and accomplishments is incredibly inspiring. She has written BBC radio scripts and a screenplay for 'The Family Legacy,' a Nollywood-style film about sickle-cell. She has has been a British Film Institute Writer-in Residence and a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. And much more …
Ade runs Spora Stories, creating original drama for stage and screen, inspired by both Nigerian popular cinema and contemporary British theatre. Her play, 'Pandora's Box', has nominated for Best New Play by the Off West End Theatre Awards. If you're in the UK, you have a few days left to catch it at the Arcola Theatre (last shows this Saturday, 26th May).
What's your passion?
That's easy: great stories, well told.
What inspired you to get involved with theatre and with playwriting in particular?
I've always loved theatre, but went to film school to study dramatic writing. I've also written screen and radio plays. Then I saw a play at Almeida Theatre in London and was inspired to write my first stage play. It was 'Big White Fog,' a 1920s African-American play about people coping with the Great Depression and a father's dream to relocate his family to Africa. He wanted to save his children from the savagery of racism. He joins the Garveyites and invests the scarce money the family has in the Black Star Line. It's a brilliant play, and close to the theme of Pandora's Box in that the characters are looking at the viability of going 'back' to Africa.
What has been your greatest obstacle/challenge?
Really hard to say. It's challenging dealing with racism, but that's as much of an obstacle as one allows it to be. I've been fortunate: I've worked with quite enlightened people in the whole. Being freelance is partly about steering clear of the pressures racism puts on us. It takes up too much energy! I need to put my energies into making plays!
How have you dealt with/overcome it?
By surrounding myself with people who respect and treat me well. People who are interested in good work, and just interested in getting things done! I've been blessed with this production of 'Pandora's Box' to be working with a superb producer, Jon Harris. I've learned a lot from him.
What has your greatest achievement been?
May I have two, please? My son and my writing! Oh, and getting my Masters from USC Film School. That was hard work!
Where will you be in 10 years?
Somewhere sunny, safe and peaceful, entertaining large audiences in London, Lagos and Los Angeles with stories of the people.
How does Africa inspire you?
The sheer potential of it boggles the mind – the size of the continent is bigger than Europe, America, China and India combined. That's an incredible land mass to have at your disposal. And most of Africa is under-populated. We have so many resources – mineral and human resources – we seem to be getting ready to maximise them; at last!
Anything we should look out for in the coming weeks/months/year?
Pandora's Box, my first play, is now on at Arcola Theatre, London, UK, until May 26th. It's about taking British-born kids back to Africa. Audiences are loving it, thankfully,and we've just been nominated for Best New Play by the Off West End Theatre Awards. So excited to have that recognition.
This May, for the first time in British theatre history, three British-Africans have plays on at the same time in major London venues. We are having a special post-show panel on British-Nigerian writing and African art in the UK after the Saturday 26th May matinee show. For the first time in British theatre history, three black women writers will have plays on simultaneously in major London venues during the last week of May. What is the audience and critical response to their work? What are the trends and prospects for the sector? Click here for an article on the three shows.
Speakers include: Ade Solanke, Playwright and Producer, Spora Stories; Yemisi Mokuolu, Independent Cultural Events Producer specialising in African arts, her award-winning Out of Africa platform promotes and profiles African arts and artists via concerts, festivals and a monthly newsletter; Sola Adeyemi, Lecturer in African Theatre, Loughborough University, and board member, African Theatre Association; Juwon Ogungbe, Musician and Composer; Ade Ajayi, Chair of African and Caribbean Chambers of Commerce and Enterprise (ACCCE).
Photos courtesy of Ade Solanke. Pandora's Box press night shot (3rd image from top) by Anthony Ofoegbu. Pandora's Box illustration by Lulu Kitololo/Asilia.