Refilwe is contemporary Black, feminist twist on the classic fairy tale Rapunzel looking at hair, home and the power of connecting with roots. we spoke with director of Refilwe and Artistic Director/CEO Bernie Grant Arts Centre Azieb Pool
Tell us about the story of Refilwe
Refilwe is a story of a young girl who has magical locs, who goes on an adventure. It is a fun family story. We have taken inspiration from the work of author Zukiswa Wanner who wrote a story called Refilwe. Zukiswa’s work is a reimagination of Rapunzel but relocated to Lesotho with a unique and beautiful twist. Our stage production of Refilwe has been relocated to Tottenham. Refilwe goes on a quest to find a lost loc-ing weaver which is trapped in the British Museum. It is a fun family story that portrays joy and magic.
The cast are all NYT actors, what has the experience of working with young talent been like?
The production is a partnership between the Bernie Grant Arts Centre, the National Youth Theatre and Talawa theatre. We have worked with young actors from the NYT from the beginning as part of the R&D process. It was really important that the cast was an all-black and emerging, and that a space was created to honour all of our lived experiences. Working with young talent has been incredible, it’s inspiring to witness the pipeline of talented young Black talent coming through the theatre.
How have you found directing?
This is my first official piece of directing. It has been an enormous privilege to work with young actors and creatives, including writer of the show Bisola Alabai who’s beautiful script has brought the story to life.
Why this show and why now?
It feels relevant and vital. I wanted to create a Black feminist version of Rapunzel, which, like more fairytales, is actually pretty horrific when you look at it closely. I also love the questioning of authority and power. I wanted to create a version which questions some of those central themes about hair, beauty and the concept of what a witch really is – maybe witches are just women of a certain age standing in their own power.
What do you hope audiences will take from it?
I hope that the audiences will experience our show as a joyous moment. A time to connect with their own ideas around hair and identity and bringing them a sense of belonging. I am particularly excited about young Black audiences seeing themselves reflected in the lead character, a powerful, Black girl with magical hair.
Refilwe is playing now at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre until 10th December and then goes to the National Youth Theatre’s Workshop Theatre 13-17 December and the Talawa Studio 20-23 December. For more go to https://www.berniegrantcentre.co.uk/whats-on/refilwe/