It’s the UK premiere of Bootycandy, yall!
Welcome to our rehearsal log (written by Assistant Director Tatenda Shamiso)
Bootycandy is a comedic, outrageous, tragic and challenging text. It’s not easy to decide where to begin when summarising our company’s process in approaching Robert O’Hara’s fever-dream of a play, but I’ll begin with an attempt at describing what the show’s about:
In two acts, eleven scenes, and a couple hours of your evening, Bootycandy travels across and between decades in a buffet of vignettes centred around Sutter, a Black gay writer, from his childhood in the 70’s through to the present day. O’Hara celebrates Black (specifically African American) culture, sheds light on its sore points, uplifts, exposes and interrogates the intersections between Blackness and queerness in the late 20th Century, and asks a million questions of his characters and his audience. A whimsical vein of metatheatricality runs through the entire piece as Bootycandy additionally considers the implications of making Black art in an industry that is predominantly supported and critiqued by white patrons and perspectives.
In our first week of rehearsals, there were several things which the cast and creatives felt it was important to establish from the jump:
- Building our world (e.g. accents, locations, character timelines, etc.)
- Collecting our cultural references
- Investigating genre
- Clarifying our aims for the Black British community in bringing this production from the US to the UK
- Discovering methods to make this a tough, fun and exciting show, whilst keeping both the process and the product safe for the team to work on, and safe for our audience to experience
In a room full of talented, hilarious and vivacious theatre-makers, many of these components arrived all at once, very loudly, with a string of jokes threaded between them.
Our beloved director, Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu, usually loves warming up for rehearsals with an excruciating high-intensity workout — you hate it for a second, but you can’t help but enjoy the queer drill-sergeant energy after a few reps — however our actors were spared this week, because the work was all about open, inquisitive conversation alongside detailed textual analysis. I won’t spoil too many of our decisions… Suffice it to say that Bootycandy’s audiences can look forward to a delicious array of iconic musical nostalgia, a trip to H-Town, maybe to Manhattan, to church, to the bedroom, and that’s only the first act!
I’ll finish this week’s log on our vision for Bootycandy’s entry to Britain. As a team we’re excited to bring the UK a text that dares to dig around in filth and lift it up for all to see. This production is intended to give the audience permission to look at and interact with darkness and difficulty, without taking away any of the vibrancy, defiance and joy that resides within Blackness. In a time when Black narratives often revolve around either pure bleak struggle or nothing but smiles and strength, we hope that Bootycandy can give a healthy dose of both, holding power and jubilance in the same hand as we hold the parts of us that are hard to look at.
Book now for Bootycandy. 13 Feb – 11 Mar. Tickets from £12.
Tatenda Shamiso is a theatre-maker, director, writer, and musician with origins from Zimbabwe, Belgium, the United States and Switzerland. He is also a scholarly researcher in Afrofuturism. and its potential to deconstruct and rebuild our notions of gender, space, and time. Central to Tatenda’s work are themes of community, identity, and joy within diaspora. (he/him)