Arts of the UK 2020: Tales from the Front Line by Talawa Theatre Company
LONDON – Black key workers, from NHS staff to teachers, have their voices heard in Talawa Theatre Company’s new online series. Exposing the hypocrisy, furious exhaustion, and glimmering hope for a better future, Tales from the Front Line uses verbatim interviews to explore the historic Covid-19 crisis and its seismic impact on those on the Front Line of the pandemic. The six short films in this challenging and vital series will be released episodically on Talawa’s website from Monday 30th November.
The first film stars Jo Martin (Doctor Who; Casualty), directed by Michael Buffong, who shares a teacher’s experience of trying to keep themselves and their pupils safe after decades of budget cuts. It explores how new conversations opened up in the wake of the global Black Lives Matter movement, and the challenges of supporting students’ education when nothing was certain anymore.
The second sees Sapphire Joy (J’Ouvert, Theatre503; Casualty), directed by Kwame Asiedu, share the words of an NHS recovery worker. Frustrated by the racial bias in the medical treatment of Black people, she finds herself further exhausted by performative gratitude during the pandemic, when there was little public outcry at the government’s failure to give NHS workers pay rises.
The pandemic has had a starkly divergent impact on communities; Black people are four times more likely to die from Covid-19, according to Public Health England’s figures in May for England and Wales. While in November, the Joint Committee on Human Rights report “Black People, Racism and Human Rights”, concluded that the Government must urgently take action to protect the human rights of Black people across many areas, including healthcare. The Tales from the Front Line interviews were a space for the Black workers to share their experiences, their concerns and their hopes for the future. Black artists and creatives have then used the testimonies to create a dramatised work using music, movement, photography and soundscapes to convey the story.
With humour and hope, these stories explore Black workers’ relationships with British society and how, in the wake of the Windrush Scandal and the global Black Lives Matter movement, the pandemic has challenged their perceptions of belonging, and demands that a changed society must emerge from it.
Michael Buffong, Talawa’s Artistic Director, comments: “Tales from the Front Line creates a historical record of the contribution of Black workers at the front line of the Covid-19 crisis, and goes further in demanding change from society. These truth-telling stories reflect real life experiences which cannot be ignored, and do so in ways that are artistically and creatively rich.”