Artistic Director of Crying in the Wilderness Paul Anthony Morris talks about show ‘Conundrum’ to show at the Young Vic
As we continue to build up a wealth of theatrical stories from the Black British perspective, we help to form a nuanced view of both recent and old British history, something incredibly important for society moving forward. Adding to the wealth of stories now gracing our stages, Crying in the Wilderness’ Artistic Director Paul Anthony Morris presents Conundrum, a show exploring the displacement and various experiences of a first generation Black Briton. Due to show early next year at the Young Vic, Paul tells us more about staging the piece nearly 2 years after its postponement due to the pandemic, the importance of placing a greater focus on well-being for both artists and audiences and what to expect from the show!
Hi Paul, Crying in the Wilderness Productions will present Conundrum which will play at the Young Vic from the 11th Jan to the 4th Feb. How are you feeling ahead of the run?
Very excited to be honest. It will be almost two years since I was working on a live theatre production and so much has changed since the pandemic. The new demands of having to take care of both the physical and psychological wellbeing of our audiences has really changed the dynamics of making theatre. This is a great opportunity for bringing artists and audiences closer together. As artists we must now take into consideration the way we make our work and the impact that our work could potentially have on our audience’s wellbeing. This is a great challenge I find it very refreshing and exciting.
Conundrum explores the displacement and experiences of a first generation Black Briton. How have you found exploring this topic further within your work?
Researching the play has been a joy and at times quite sad. Apart from reading lots of material, my research has also been based on listening to other people’s stories and experiences of having their aspirations dashed by systemic inequality despite having a high IQ. Or, being exhausted in the workplace by having to work ten times harder and smarter than their white colleagues. Of course, there are stories where individuals have been very successful professionally, but you get a sense, from the retelling of their stories, that there has always been an unnecessary demand or sacrifice that the individual has had to make that their counterparts haven’t. When I was growing up, the ‘ten times smarter’, advice given to us by our parents, as a generation, has been placed at the heart of my narrative. It wasn’t until I was older that I really understood what my grandparents meant by it and it is still true, even today.
The piece stars Barber Shop Chronicles’ Anthony Ofoegbu and is supported by the Young Vic, of which you’re an Associate Company of. How have you all worked together to realise the show?
Anthony is a collaborator and director of our company. We have been working together for some years now, particularly on Conundrum where his versatility as a performer will be on show. His skill set is quite extraordinary, and I think this is the first time that he will be able to display his repertoire of talents. In 2018 we were invited by the Artistic Director of the Young Vic, Kwame KweiArmah, to become an associate company of the theatre. Kwame was familiar with the style of work that I had been developing and producing and thought that we would be a good addition to his programming and that we would equally benefit from the Young Vic’s infrastructure. Conundrumis produced by Crying in the Wilderness Productions in association with the Young Vic.
What have you learned/taken away from creating the show?
To be brave as a theatre maker and true to oneself. I have been very fortunate to have acquired an excellent team of artists, creatives managers and heads of departments in PR and Marketing who feel impassioned about the themes and theatricality of our play, ‘Theatre of the Soul’. As well as being responsible for the creation of the art, what is equally important is that my colleagues feel like they have a voice to express their opinions honestly. This for me is where the art begins, in the honesty.
What can audiences expect from the show?
An engaging experience. The tag line for our production Conundrum is, ‘an intimate tale of self-discovery, liberation and bliss’ As a company we are fully committed to delivering this experience for our audience.
What would you like for audiences to take away from the show?
Our goal is to simply create a piece of theatre that touches and moves people in a profound way. That helps the audience to reflect on their own lives and make the necessary adjustment to have more autonomy over their decisions and the lives that they live and lead.
Questions by Lucy Basaba.
Conundrum will show from Tuesday 11th January until Friday 4th February 2022 at the Young Vic Theatre. To find out more about the production, visit here…