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Arinze Kene as Bob Marley in rehearsal workshop. (Photo credit: Craig Sugden)

Black History Month: Plays about Black histories on in London

Kitty Underwood

By Kitty Underwood First Published 8 October 2021, Last Updated 28 October 2021

This Black History Month, we wanted to highlight some of the amazing plays and musicals on in London that tell stories of Black history. From true stories based on iconic Black musicians to tales of the Black British experience, there are so many incredible productions on offer. Check out our list of productions that tell Black histories on or upcoming in London below.

The Drifters Girl – Garrick Theatre

The Drifters girl

Legendary soul singer Beverly Knight plays Faye Treadwell, The Drifters’ manager who spent three decades getting the band to the top.

A doo-wop, R ‘n’ B and soul coal group, The Drifters have had an ever-evolving line up since the 1950s, and have had over 60 vocalists in their history. Faye Treadwell took over management of the group after the untimely death of her husband in 1967.

Faye took The Drifters on to higher and higher successes, making them a household name by the end of the decade and inductees in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame by the end of the next. In 1993 they performed at the Whitehouse for Bill Clinton and in 2004 they were included in Rolling Stone’s Top 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

This is the story of the world’s first female African American music manager and her fight to never give up on the group that she loved.

Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical – Lyric Theatre

From the hills of rural Jamaica, armed only with his overwhelming talent and righteous beliefs, Bob Marley applied himself with resolute determination to achieve international acclaim for his prophetic musical message – a gospel of love and unity.

With unlimited access to Marley’s platinum-selling catalogue of music, the multi-award-winning team of Lee Hall, Clint Dyer and Arinzé Kene capture the rebellious spirit and story of this universal icon. A euphoric company of performers fuse with the finest reggae musicians to bring this triumphant tale of passion, political unrest and progress from Trenchtown to the West End.

Malindadzimu – Hampstead Theatre

Malindadzimu - Hampstead Theatre

For Faith and her teenage daughter Hope, it seems as though growing up inevitably means growing apart. So Faith makes the drastic decision to move the family back to her native Zimbabwe to start over. It’s home for her but not for Hope – at least, not on the surface… Will the powers that have drawn them back to their roots help them find each other – and themselves?

Mufaro Makubika’s new play – delicate, witty and epic in equal measure – travels from Nottingham to Zimbabwe to explore a mother and daughter’s search for belonging, their struggle with a multicultural heritage, and a haunting history that cannot be ignored.

Marys Seacole – Donmar Warehouse

Marys Seacole - Donmar Warehouse

Mary Seacole was the pioneering Jamaican nurse who bravely voyaged to heal soldiers in the Crimean War. She was a traveller, a hotelier and a businesswoman. She was the most impressive woman you’ve ever met.

Putting the concept of a biopic through a kaleidoscope, Marys Seacole is a dazzling exploration, across oceans and eras, of what it means to be a woman who is paid to care, and how, ultimately, no one is in charge of their own story.

Directed by Nadia Latif, the UK premiere of Pulitzer Prize winner Jackie Sibblies Drury’s celebrated new play reunites the team behind her critically-acclaimed Fairview in 2019.

A Place For We – Park Theatre

A pub. A funeral parlour. An urban-zen enoteca and conscious eatery. One building in Brixton tells the story of London’s changing communities over three very different generations.

Trinidadian funeral director Clarence and fifth generation pub owner George don’t want things to change. But everything around them is changing. Do they adapt to survive? Or stay true to their roots and risk it all… family, tradition, business?

In the wake of the Windrush scandal, Archie Maddocks’ bittersweet comedy holds a mirror up to the ever-changing face of London’s communities in search of their common beating heart.

Running With Lions – Lyric Hammersmith Theatre

Running With Lions - Lyric Hammersmith

Following the death of a loved one, a British-Caribbean family struggles to come to terms with their grief. Isolated by their generational beliefs and challenges to their faith and mental health, they live between the things they do and do not say.

Running With Lions explores the journey of one family’s reconciliation after loss and the rediscovery of love and joy.

Running With Lions is the first play from exciting new writing talent Sian Carter. Running With Lions will be directed by Michael Buffong, Talawa Theatre Company’s Artistic Director and is a co-production with Talawa Theatre Company, the UK’s outstanding Black British Theatre Company.

Small Island – National Theatre

Small Island

Hortense yearns for a new life away from rural Jamaica, Gilbert dreams of becoming a lawyer and Queenie longs to escape her Lincolnshire roots.

Following their lives through the Second World War until the arrival of HMT Empire Windrush at Tilbury, hopes for the future soon meet the stubborn reality of post-war Britain.

Adapted by Helen Edmundson and directed by Rufus Norris, this play brings to life the tangled history of Jamaica and the UK.

Sold – Park Theatre

Sold - Park Theatre

When one woman tells of her extraordinary journey to overcome the brutality of slavery, she becomes a beacon for the British anti-slavery movement. Born into slavery in the British colony of Bermuda, Mary Prince went on to become an auto-biographer and champion of freedom.

Mary’s words of the harsh realities of enslavement and how it felt to be separated from family, loved ones and to be owned, bought and sold gave voice to those that are often silent, silenced, ignored or spoken for. Her book had an electrifying effect on the abolitionist movement helping to free many Africans in bondage.

A forgotten true story told through theatre, song, live drumming and dance, this masterpiece of Black British theatre is inspired by the storytelling traditions of the West African griot.

Kuumba Nia Arts and Unlock the Chains Collective share and celebrate African and Caribbean heritage, culture experience and stories.

Tina – The Tina Turner Musical – Aldwych Theatre

From humble beginnings in Nutbush, Tennessee, to the global Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Tina – The Tina Turner Musicalis the new biographical musical which follows the story of a global icon, featuring her much loved songs.

Throughout her career, Tina Turner didn’t just break the rules, she rewrote them. This stage musical, reveals the untold story of a woman who dared to defy the bounds of her age, gender and race.

The revered singer was introduced into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 and has often been voted as one of the most successful female Rock ‘n’ Roll artists of all time. Her live shows have been seen by millions, with more concert tickets sold than any other solo performer in music history.

Trouble In Mind – National Theatre

Trouble In Mind

A radical satire of racism in theatre. In 1950s America, protests for racial equality erupt in the face of voter suppression.

On Broadway, Wiletta Mayer, a talented black actress, begins rehearsals for a new play about racism – written and directed by two white men. When Wiletta finds that her arguments to tell the truth of the story are dismissed, she decides to take action.

First staged over 60 years ago, Trouble in Mind is widely considered the masterpiece of actress and playwright Alice Childress.


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