Debut show features in new festival from Brixton House Theatre

A new festival, launched at the newly opened Brixton House Theatre last week, will feature a debut show by actor, writer and director Shakira Newton.

The two-week festival will showcase multi-artform performances by eight independent artists between 21 April to 6 May, including experimental live theatre, comedy, spoken word and dance. 

Located in the heart of Brixton’s local community, the event aims to celebrate work and stories developed by artists and freelancers during or prior to the pandemic.

Among the line-up is Newton’s Things I Can Laugh About Now, a tragicomedy, one-person show about how the love we receive in our formative years can affect the love we accept in our adult life. 

In four solo performances running 26-29 April, Newton’s play explores themes of mental health, domestic abuse and suicide while remaining an uplifting story of self-discovery and hope.

Newton said: “I’m really proud of the piece that I have written, so I’m excited to share it with people as part of this festival in an amazing, brand new theatre, alongside some fantastic shows.

“I have a few friends and family that have seen small excerpts of the play at scratch nights but this is the first time it will be on its feet, in full, with full production which is really exciting.

“The show is semi-autobiographical, so all of the stories told have happened to me but some have been hammed up for entertainment purposes.”

The show, directed by Carlo (Lo) Feliciani Ojeda, is Newton’s first full length stage play since graduating from East 15 Acting School in July.

The story follows Girl, a British, mixed-race, working-class, queer woman in her mid-20s and asks what it means to grow up differently to the world immediately around you.

Newton credits a drama school writing module run by Jane Fallowfield, now the head of Literary at Royal Court, as inspiration for the play. 

The assessment was to perform a rehearsed reading of a scene from a one-person show that each student had written. 

She said: “I had a girls night round my mates house and was telling a traumatic story but had everyone in stitches laughing and everyone agreed I should write a scene in for this module in the same way, which is now the first scene of this show. 

“I got encouraging feedback from Jane and this inspired me and gave me the confidence to finish the play.

“My inner critic has been on steroids at certain points, but, thankfully, I have a great support system, my director Lo is so supportive and adapts the rehearsal around my needs. 

“They are completely empathetic and understanding of how taxing doing a whole show on your own is, especially one that covers such heavy themes that are so close to home and I’m very grateful to have them in the room with me.

“I reached out to a few people in the industry who have done one-person shows in the last year or so for advice and they all took time out of their already busy schedules to give me a confidence boost.”

Newton also runs Piece of Cake Theatre Company with her brother, Ibraheem Toure, a project dedicated to uplifting, championing, and giving opportunities to non-white creatives in the performing arts industry. 

Piece of Cake will be involved in theatre and music festivals in collaboration with National Youth Theatre and Portsmouth City Council later this year, and will explore screen projects in 2023. 

Newton added: “I have a few personal acting, directing and writing projects in the pipeline which I’m very passionate about, but they’re not ready to be announced yet!”

You can book tickets here and see the full festival line-up here.

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