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Broken English is spoken within many cultures – a bridge between the English language and a particular culture’s native tongue. Used as a means of communication amongst other groups that do not have a language in common, Broken or Pidgin English is a powerful tool that brings communities together. Writer and Performer Jahmar Ngozi explores the history and culture of this particular form of language in his upcoming show Broken English. Ahead of the show, Jahmar tells us more about why he wanted to explore the topic, performing at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe and what he’s learned from creating the show.

Hi Jahmar, your show Broken English will run at the Tristan Bates Theatre from the 20th until 22nd January. How are you feeling ahead of the show?

Hi Lucy. I feel excited, fortunate and hopeful.

Broken English ‘is a contemporary story depicting the journey of the English language from the perspective of [yourself], from 1st generation of Windrush’. Can you tell us more about the show and why you wanted to explore this topic of language further?

English is a common denominator for many geographical regions such as; Patois, Pidgeon & Cockney Rhyming Slang, I wanted to explore/ portray Broken English as a culture as well as a form of communication. Creatively I hope to portray the concept of language through history by using a variety of notable characters and events, whilst celebrating diversity.

The show utilises poetry, physical theatre and drama to explore the topic of language. How have you approached creating the show?

I began by looking into the lineage of my family, then brought into context all the features that would tell the story and bring it up to present day, before finding a suitable conclusion. Workshops at Bernie Grant Art Centre and the National Theatre Archive were amazing for the research into physical theatre, development of ideas, writing styles and concepts. With the idea complete I began casting. I already knew Sam Burnard from my previous play “Van Gogh On The Beach”Jake Bryan-Amaning and Rosie-May are from a film and performing arts background. They are all amazingly talented and very thorough, so when they critiqued it and made suggestions, I could make amendments that improved the characters, scene transitions and story as a whole.

Broken English was performed earlier on this year at Edinburgh Festival Fringe, what was the response towards the show and how did you find the experience?

Edinburgh Fringe was epic! We had good attendance with a huge amount of diversity in the audience. At the end of each performance I would speak directly with the audience to discuss some of the concepts and receive feedback. The support, admiration and words of encouragement was overwhelming. The performances got better as we went along and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.

How have you personally found exploring this topic and have you learned anything new from creating the show?

I recorded a live poetry album in 2015 entitled “Broken English”, which encapsulated a focus on wordplay. It’s available in the National Poetry Library for anyone that wants to listen. The journey from being a selection of poems recorded in a bedroom studio to a play being featured in Covent Garden is something that makes me genuinely grateful to God, family, friends and everyone that has supported me, from the members of the audience to the contributors like yourself and Theatre Full Stop who take time to cover and show an interest in my work. As a Sociologist this topic has allowed me to really engage with people. It is an evolving concept that continues to grow and I’ve enjoyed speaking and working with such a variety of brilliant people who’ve all helped me to grow creatively and professionally.

What can audiences expect from the show?

Enigmatic characters, a balance between fact and fiction, contemporary theatre wit’ a Broken English rhythm.

What would you like for audiences to take away from the show?

A sense of enjoyment, some meaningful insights and a bag full of Poetry House merchandise.

What advice would you give to aspiring theatre makers?

Be brilliant and be resilient. Have a goal. Have integrity, Have initiative.

Questions by Lucy Basaba.

Broken English will show from Monday 20th until Wednesday 22nd Januar 2020 at the Tristan Bates Theatre. To find out more about the production, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop