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Black Theatre in London 1979 – 1982


An exhibition of photographs by Michael Mayhew and a new artwork by Cherelle Sappleton in the Lyttelton Lounge at the National Theatre 23 February – 10 June.

The photographs from the National Theatre Archive’s Michael Mayhew Collection is a rare snapshot of the work developed by black theatre practitioners between 1979 and 1982.  Michael Mayhew was the NT’s Art Director (from 1976 – 2009) when he was first asked by Charlie Hanson to take publicity photographs of the newly established Black Theatre Co-operative. In the 1970s and 80s there was an explosion of new black-led theatre companies in the UK, primarily focused on London.  Mayhew went on to shoot more images of theatre productions and rehearsals with Foco Novo and Temba Theatre, leaving a legacy of over 1000 newly digitized photographs at the NT archive. 

To respond to this archive collection, the NT has commissioned Cherelle Sappleton, a young British/Caribbean visual artist whose work focuses on photography, moving image and collage.  For Sappleton, Mayhew’s images provide the opportunity to pause and consider the politics of ‘making’ and the spaces in which creative work can be made.

A series of events accompanied the exhibition to explore and challenge the content and context of the work.

In Context - GLC Story, Black Feminist Theatre 1981-1986
Saturday 1 April, 2-5pm, Cottesloe Room, £25/£20/£7.50

On Screen – Tunde’s Film (dir. Tunde Ikoli and Maggie Pinhorn, 1973, 49 mins)
Saturday 25 March, 6-7.30pm, Cottesloe Room, £5/£3

In Context; Black Woman Time
Saturday 11 March, 2-5pm, Cottesloe Room, £25/£20/£7.50

Stage Photographers
Saturday 4 March, 6-7pm, Cottesloe Room, £6/£5

The Black Plays Archive is an online catalogue for the first professional production of every African, Caribbean and black British play produced in Britain.  Visit in person by appointment - NT Archive 020 7452 3135.