We are creatives, we are from Essex and we are black and we’ll be asking where do we fit in? Where are the stories in live-performance that reflect our Essex heritage and experience?
Following on from a session hosted by Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch join us for this second pan-regional iteration hosted by the Mercury in association with the Queen’s Theatre for a discussion about Black Essex voices and help us plot for better representation on our stages.
Danielle was born and raised in Essex. Her earliest memories of performing and shows take place in Essex from the pantos at Kenneth Moore Theatre to the shows at Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch she would attend with her school.
Allyson Ava-Brown is a British born actress and singer. Hailing from Wickford in Essex where she got her start doing panto at the Cliffs Pavilion in Southend many moons ago. A place she still frequents to see regular comedy shows with her Dad! Currently appearing in the West end production of Hamilton in the role of Angelica Schuyler, where she recently won the Broadway World Award in the Best Long Running Female Performer category.Known for her theatrical roles in productions such as: Les Miserables, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Etienne Sisters, Crowing Glory and The Quiet House, Allyson has also been a regular on UK television screens, in series such as: Secret Diary of a Call Girl, The Wrong Door, Vera and Bear Behaving Badly. In 1998, Allyson won the Best Unsigned Artist category at the Mobo Awards. Alongside this, Allyson has been recognised with nominations for her performance in The Etienne Sisters (Best Musical Theatre Performance – UK Theatre Awards), and The Swallowing Dark (Best Actress in a Play – The Offies).
Anne is an Essex-based actor who trained on the MA acting programme at Mountview and up until lockdown was in rehearsal for The Winter’s Tale with the RSC. She has appeared at Shakespeare’s Globe in Bartholomew Fair, The Merry Wives of Windsor and The Comedy of Errors; and at Oval House in Snow White and the Happy Ever After Beauty Salon and The Secret Keeper. Other roles include: Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Tituba in The Crucible, Alexis in Women of Troy and Sister Anne in Finian’s Rainbow. Anne appeared at the Queen’s Theatre as Leanne in a rehearsed reading of Stiletto Beach.
Charleen Qwaye was born in Whitechapel, but grew up in Barking, Essex where her family still live. Her first professional performances were at The Broadway Theatre, Barking and Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch where she began her career in panto as a villager! As an avid supporter of local theatre, both for the community and indeed for local talent, Charleen and her family continue to support the variety of shows these theatres programme. As the only black female Co-founder of a drama school in the UK, Charleen is the Deputy CEO and Director of Training of Fourth Monkey as well an actress, choreographer and director. Fourth Monkey is a London-based actor training company with an emphasis on collaborative, innovative and inclusive training for actors and theatre makers seeking a unique alternative to traditional drama school and conservatoire environments. Charleen is a huge advocate of diversity and inclusion across the arts sector as a whole. Charleen’s theatre credits include: The Butterfly Lion at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester, A Midsummer Night’s Dream & Our Country’s Good at the Tobacco Factory, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time for the National Theatre at The Gielgud, UK tours of Chicago, Chess the Musical, I Can’t Stop Loving You, Oh! What A Night! and Viva La Diva, the European tour of The Blues Brothers and This Is The Night at Richmond Theatre, Kiki’s Delivery Service at The Southwark Playhouse, The Taming of the Shrew & Doubt at the Landor Theatre, 4:48 Psychosis at the Edinburgh Fringe, The Full Monty at the Charing Cross Theatre, Elephant Man and The Peculiar Tale Of Pablo Picasso and The Mona Lisa at the Brockley Jack, performances of Classical Spectacular at the Royal Albert Hall. Rehearsed readings and work in development workshops include: The Alice Birch Clean Break Project, The Malady of Death, Don Juan, Hyenas in Petticoats, Angels in America Part 1, Welcome! Up Next all for the National Theatre, The Bronzeville Project, Tarento Productions and Coming Clean, Ray Kilby. TV and Film Credits include; Jerk for Somesuch Productions, Mind-reading Algorithms for Fat Rat Films and Crimes Stories for ITV.
Chileya Mwampulo is from Colchester and a Fourth Monkey Alumni and National Youth Theatre member. She is the Director and Playwright of ‘The Blind Truth’ shown at the Lyric Hammersmith in 2018 and is now on the Playwrights Prorgramme at the Mercury Theatre.
Leah Kirby is from Colchester and is an actor in Film, Theatre and Cabaret Host/Singer. They also perform as the drag artist CYRO. Using spoken word, movement composition. Lip syncing and storytelling.
Leah creates theatre that incites change and incorporates non-western techniques. To explore social economic and political issues through a non-traditional format.
Leah is also known as their persons Cyro. CYRO is a Queer, Non-Binary, DRAG THING! Bringing strength, beauty and awareness to the stage with acts like ‘run rabbit’ exploring the struggles of gang induction and violence within black communities. ‘I am not your’ a piece delves into black masculinity within a non-binary body. showing the beauty it can exude by stripping back the facade.
They use spoken word, movement, composition, Lip syncing and storytelling within their work Inciting change through art as a call to action.