We’re thrilled to announce that the winner of the 25th Alfred Fagon Award for Best New Play of the Year is Mojisola Adebayo for her play Family Tree, produced by ATC and commissioned by ATC and Young Vic.
Mojisola was presented with her award by the Patron of the Alfred Fagon Award, Baroness Floella Benjamin.
The Alfred Fagon Award is supported by the Peggy Ramsay Foundation.
FAMILY TREE was showcased as a work-in-development for a limited number of performances at the Greenwich & Docklands International Festival 2021, directed by ATC Artistic Director Matthew Xia and presented by ATC, GDIF and Young Vic.
Background to the commissioning of Family Tree
FAMILY TREE is a joint commission by Actors Touring Company and its long-term partner the Young Vic and was one of several commissions ATC made during the period of lockdown.
Commissioning Mojisola Adebayo’s play was borne out of ATC’s commitment to commissioning new plays from female writers of colour for the first three years of Matthew Xia’s tenure (2019-21). This was alongside ATC’s mission during the same period to produce UK premieres of contemporary international plays, all of which were exclusively by female writers of colour.
The strategy aimed to pro-actively improve and elevate the representation and diversity of playwriting voices in ATC’s work and in the wider sector.
Matthew Xia says:
“Mojisola Adebayo is an exceptional writer and I’m thrilled that her outstanding new play has won the award. There’s a beauty in her work that responds so well to the present moment whilst holding historical malpractice to account. It’s fearless, brutally honest, at turns hilarious, and ultimately transformative. The ritualistic celebratory nature of this play, is our way of uplifting, remembering, and learning from these women who were used in the name of medical advancement. I hope that audiences far and wide will have the opportunity to see this vital work brought to life again on stage.”
“The first few weeks of a rehearsal are always a wild blur of excitement and confusion – meeting company members, venue staff, and in some instances, meeting the play! The first two weeks of RICE have been nothing short of a whirlwind; zoom meetings with staff and collaborators sprawled across the Orange Tree Theatre, costume fittings, design showings, text work, zoom calls across the globe connecting the rehearsal room in Richmond, London, with the writer in Melbourne, Australia – you can either get blown away by the whirlwind, or you can whip out your most brightly coloured kites and catch the breeze.
For the first week in Matthew Xia’s rehearsal room, we sit around the table and meet the play in earnest. Sure, everyone in the room has read it and can see the painting as a whole, but Matthew hands the company a magnifying glass, and asks us all to look closely at every piece of information; every fact, every description, every punctuation mark is significant in a Xia room. He asks the cast to look, without judgment, and see without conjecture, so that we can understand the play in a deeper more clearer way than we would if we were just diving into it and hoping for the best. A true Virgo king. And of course the indomitable Zainab Hassan and Sarah Lam are totally up to the challenge. Both performers are incredibly deft at pairing intellect and play, using the information that we’ve excavated together, to create real life people who live and breathe and who feel joy and pain and love and fear.
People who eat rice.
People who share their lives,
who hide from one another,
who are desperate to be needed.
These are the people who fill the hour and a half that audiences will see. These are the people that Zainab, Sarah, and Matthew (along with the expertise of movement director Asha Jennings-Grant, and the slick costume design from Hyemi Shin) have spent the first two weeks meeting, and sculpting. We’ll spend the next two weeks really getting to know them on a deeper level – developing their worlds and their lives. And on the 9th of October, we’ll have the immense pleasure of introducing them to all of you. We can’t wait for you to share a Tupperware of rice with us.”
Photos of the RICE company in rehearsals at the Orange Tree Theatre.
All photos by Helen Murray