Writer Beru Tessema talks about his play ‘House of Ife’ to play at the Bush Theatre
How we process grief is unique to us individually and how families mourn together can either bring everyone closer together or drive everyone further apart from one another. The process of a funeral an incredibly emotive one, a ceremony offering that vital opportunity for all to say their final goodbyes, cultural roots governing how funeral rites are observed. An exploration of loss, family and migration, writer Beru Tessema presents House of Ife, a drama observing a family confront the unsaid and traumas that they’ve lived with after the loss of family member Ife. Due to play from the 29th April until 11th June at the Bush Theatre as part of their 50th birthday celebrations, Beru tells us more about exploring the show’s themes, working with Artistic Director Lynette Linton and what he’s learned from the show’s creative process!
Hi Beru, your show House of Ife will show from the 29th April to 11th June at the Bush Theatre. How are you feeling?
I am very excited about House of Ife. It is my debut play as a playwright and I am elated to be at the Bush as it is and has always been one of my favourite theatres in London! The Bush is such an incredible space and it is such a privilege to be working with the Artistic Director Lynette Linton.
House of Ife explores the unsaid, the traumas a family have lived with, and are forced to confront after the loss of family member Ife. What inspired you to explore this further?
I was inspired to write the play when I was working on Antigone. The idea of a sister wanting to bury her brother with the proper rites so he can go on into the afterlife. I was also inspired by the way families – particularly African immigrant families relate to their children who are born and brought up here. The way two cultures can exist within a household. The cultural divide within a household that can create an irreconcilable distance between immigrant parents and their British children. Ultimately, this play is about grief and loss, the things that people lose when they migrate to the UK in search of a better life. Often the price of migration is heavy. I wanted to explore this idea of loss and the different way it can manifest.
House of Ife forms part of Bush Theatre’s 50th birthday celebrations, what does it mean to form part of this?
It feels very special to be a part of The Bush’s 50th birthday celebrations. It means a great deal to be part of this season that marks the 50th year of such an important theatre that has been at the forefront of new writing.
The production has been written by yourself, with dramaturgy by Deirdre O’Halloran. It has been directed by Bush Theatre’s Artistic Director Lynette Linton with assistance from Monaé Robinson, with movement direction from Kane Husbands, fight direction from Kate Waters, sound and composition from Duramaney Kamara, lighting design from Jai Morjaria and set and costume from Frankie Bradshaw amongst other creatives. How have you worked together to realise the show?
Lynette is a brilliant director, and we have such a brilliant team. We have worked in a collaborative way as a team, open to exploration and ideas. The creative team and the actors have all been really incredibly invested in the play and it has been such a joyful process. It has been a dream team to be honest. Such generous and creative people on this show!
What have you learned/taken away from the creative process?
The key thing I taken away from this process is that as a playwright one has to remain open to the ways the scenes may change in the rehearsal process and to welcome the discoveries that are inevitable when the actors begin to bring the characters to life.
What can audiences expect from the show?
Expect House of Ife to be an emotionally charged, explosive epic family drama.
What would you like for audiences to take away from the show?
I want the audiences to feel an emotional connection to the play and connect to the journey of healing that the characters go on.
Questions by Lucy Basaba.
House of Ife will show from Friday 29th April until Saturday 11th June 2022 at the Bush Theatre. To find out more about the production, visit here…