Winsome Pinnock and Kalungi Ssebandeke at the Bush Theatre Photo Rebekah Ellerby
Winsome Pinnock and Kalungi Ssebandeke at the Bush Theatre Photo Rebekah Ellerby

Bush Theatre has today announced that the first Passing the Baton commission will be awarded to actor and writer Kalungi Ssebandeke.

As part of Bush Theatre’s three-year initiative introducing or reacquainting theatregoers with the artists of colour who carved their way through British playwriting with distinction, paving the way for many of the writers and performers who appear at Bush Theatre, Artistic Director Madani Younis will direct a contemporary revival of Leave Taking, Pinnock’s classic, award-winning play from 24 May to 30 June.

For each of the three years of Passing the Baton, a promising emerging writer of colour will be given a full length commission for the main house alongside mentoring to develop their work, thus passing the baton between established writers and emerging writers of colour.

Kalungi Ssebandeke said: ‘Passing the Baton gives me the confidence to write knowing that it has legs and will be in safe hands being read by the Bush. The sort of work that I like is being produced at the venue so it means so much.  From working at the Bush Theatre as an actor to now having the opportunity to write for them just goes to show that perseverance and belief in myself as a performer, artist and writer pays off. It means even more because Passing the Baton is championing artists that wouldn’t otherwise be championed. So I get an opportunity to not only continue on where people like Winsome Pinnock started, who paved the way for us, but also to kind of introduce new stories that are inspired by the work that her generation started.’

Winsome Pinnock said: ‘The young woman that I was when I first wrote Leave Taking looked forward to a post-racial world. The play was last produced in London in 1997 so I was thrilled when in October 2017 the Bush Theatre informed me that they were going to revive the play.  The exciting news also gave me pause to reflect on whether the goals of my parents’ generation – often called the Windrush generation and the focus of the play – had been achieved.

That same month the government released its Racial Disparity Audit. Twenty years after Leave Taking was last produced in London the statistics reveal that BAME people continue to face discrimination in almost every sphere of social life whether it be within the criminal justice system, housing or employment. It brought into focus the importance of Passing the Baton which I am immensely proud to be part of. The initiative will create a dialogue between past, present and future generations as well give a voice to those who continue to be marginalised.’

Kalungi Ssebandeke’s first full length play, Assata Taught Me premiered at the Gate Theatre in 2017. He previously performed at the Bush Theatre in We are proud to Present…by Jackie Siblies Drury. His other works as a playwright include View of Her Own Beauty, My Darling Wife, The Star and Raceless.  In the theatre he has appeared in The Taming of the Shrew (Two Gents); We Are Proud to Present… (Bush Theatre, The Offies – Best Ensemble); One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show (Eclipse Theatre).  His TV appearances include Cucumber, The Well, Dubplate Drama and The Dumping Ground; and for film Shoot Me and Columbite Tantalite.

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