Writer and Performer Livia Kojo Alour talks about her show ‘Black Sheep’, showing at Jacksons Lane Arts Centre

Courtesy of Yannick Malady.

Having premiered earlier on this year at Rich Mix as part of Certain Blacks’ Shipbuilding Festival, Livia Kojo Alour’s one woman show Black Sheep, the story of a Black woman finding love and a testament of personal strength, developed through transcending the white gaze, overcoming institutional racism and leaning into radical vulnerability returns to Jackson’s Lane Arts Centre on the 15th and 16th November. Ahead of the production, Livia tells us more about the show’s development, publishing Rising of the Black Sheep with Polaris Press – an anthology drawing on the show’s themes further and what to expect from the show.

Hi Livia, your show Black Sheep will show at Jackson’s Lane Arts Centre on the 15th + 16th November with the show touring various venues before and after these performances. How are you feeling ahead of the show?

I am just super exited. London is my home run and I am expecting to see lots of friends but obviously also make new ones too. I performed at Jackson’s Lane before with Marisa Carnesky and it was such a buzz so I can’t wait to bring my own show!

Black Sheep is a story about a Black woman finding love and a testament of personal strength, developed through transcending the white gaze, overcoming institutional racism and leaning into radical vulnerability. How have you found exploring this within your work?

I used to be a full time circus performer and at the height of my circus career, I realised I was missing out on a very important part – my voice. I had a dedicated role in most productions. ‘The diva’, the ‘pain-proof Black woman’ who would not speak. There was no space for my own narrative and that suffocated me. I wanted my own show to speak up. Researching for Black Sheep was a wonderful exploration of the past and present especially after being silenced for so long.

Black Sheep debuted at Certain Blacks’ ‘Shipbuilding Festival’ in February of this year. How did you find the experience? What has the show’s journey involved from February until now?

At the time Certain Blacks booked me I had almost lost the drive to finish the project. Lockdowns had cancelled several planned performances and money was very tight. Clive Lyttle generously offered me the platform with support, and it really saved the show. The venue Rich Mix was perfect in size and structure. I felt I could really shine and show the world my vision. The audience turnout was brilliant and the show ended with a standing ovation. After this I felt elated and confident that the show has a future life. With my drive back, bookings took off as well. I had a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe where I won an award alongside with many good reviews. It was the Birds of Paradise Exceptional Theatre Award, from Neurodiverse Review Awards.

You also launched a poetry collection titled Rising of the Black Sheep with Polaris Press. An extension of the show, the collection also focuses on topics of hope, joy, achievement, activism and a future that is unapologetically Black. How did you find exploring these themes within an anthology context? How does it feel to see the collection now available for purchase?

The poetry collection touches deeper on each subject. Initially I started writing only for the show. When lockdown came I kept writing. So the collection emerged organically without pressure of wanting or having to write a book. It takes the reader on my journey of growing up, search for identity, finding it and finally embracing it too. Hopefully it reminds them of things they’ve gone through themselves. I really love that people can now take a piece of my story home with them to experience it in their personal space. They can re-read it, take all the time they need to delve into the material on their own terms.

What have you learned/taken away from creating the show?

I absolutely love the process of writing, researching and making theatre. It was beautiful to release this finished show into the world. I understood in the process that stories like mine are important to be told. It gave me a lot of confidence to keep working. I can’t wait to start the next project!

What can audiences expect from the show?

Since It’s a deeply personal show it’s a pretty emotional journey. Past audiences have laughed and cried with me. It was a beautiful experience. Come with an open mind and heart!

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

The most important themes for me are creating community, inspiring others and having compassion for one another. If I can ignite any of this in my audience I’ve done my job!

Questions by Lucy Basaba.

Black Sheep will show on Tuesday 15th and Wednesday 16th November 2022 at Jacksons Lane Arts Centre. To find out more about the production, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop