INTERVIEW: STARS | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Debra Michaels/Bradley Charles by Ali Wright

STARS: An Afrofuturist Space Odyssey comes to Northern Stage this month with a host of accolades from its premiere at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts and a fantastic response on tour. The play’s acclaimed writer Mojisola Adebayo describes the amazing reception so far: “This is the first time I have made or seen a piece of theatre where at the end of the show the audience are literally cheering on the main character. That is testament to Debra Michaels’ astonishing lead performance as ‘Mrs’ as well as the music, visuals and gorgeous set. Audiences are on their feet at the end and we even had a critic crying with joy.”

Mrs (played by the aforementioned Debra Michaels) is a woman in her eighties looking back on her life, her marriage and friendships, and all the pleasure she’s missed out on. After a long and sad marriage, a newspaper horoscope sparks her imagination to seek out the pleasure in her life and have a new adventure – in space! When Mrs applies for Spexit: Space Exit!, she sets herself on a quest to inner and outer space.

As for Bradley Charles, who plays Mrs’ son Michael Manners and DJs throughout the whole show, Adebayo explains how he brings a soundtrack throughout the play of upbeat music, a “concept album on stage”, which leaves audiences feeling uplifted, ecstatic even, which is especially important as there is some challenging subject matter in the show.

I want people to really feel exhilarated, to cheer on the central character but also themselves – to go wherever the pleasure is

Mojisola Adebayo started writing the play in 2016 on a three month artists’ residency on a boat with Idle Women, the ideal setting for this work: “I had wanted to write a play about pleasure for a long time and by floating back on Lancashire canals, letting go, I started to imagine a story that combined space travel and sexuality.” The result is a moving and joyful, sensitive yet funny journey of an old lady who goes into outer space… in search of her own orgasm. Isn’t that where all orgasms go?

Directed by Gail Babb and S. Ama Wray with an inspiring creative team including exquisite animations by artist Candice Purwin and creative captioning throughout, this hugely original show is celebrated as a candid queer feminist rallying call, which takes its audience on a journey from ancient West African folklore, via a council flat in South London, to the stars. In collaboration with ICA, theatre company Tamasha presents this show with great delight as Pooja Ghai, Artistic Director of Tamasha explains, “Tamasha is a home for our Global Majority artists to explore their voices and nurture their forms of artistic expression. In celebration of this, we are delighted to present the world premiere of Mojisola Adebayo’s STARS. Mojisola is an outstanding artist who has been inspiring and challenging perceptions of African diasporic histories through her work.”

STARS embraces accessibility, and there is something for everyone here, as Adebayo explains: “The production is really for everyone aged 14 years old and upwards. All the words in the show are creatively captioned, like artistic subtitles, making it accessible to deaf audiences and beneficial to anyone that likes to follow the text as they enjoy the play. What I love about STARS is there is something for everyone. You can just enjoy the words, the music, the performances, the visuals or all of it.

I want people to really feel exhilarated,” the writer continues, “to cheer on the central character but also themselves – to go wherever the pleasure is.”

Are you ready for a journey to the stars on a pleasure quest? The trip is about to commence…

STARS is performed at Northern Stage, Newcastle on Monday 19th and Tuesday 20th June.


Stars’ music producer Debo Adebayo gives us an insight into the musical influences of of the production in an exclusive FFO feature

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