Writer Matilda Feyiṣayọ Ibini talks about her play ‘Sleepova’ to show at the Bush Theatre

Matilda Feyiṣayọ Ibini,
Credit and copyright: Helen Murray

The bonds we build in our younger years are powerful ones, friendships built or sustained within our teenage years hopefully lifelong. For us girls in particular, these bonds a signifier of sisterhood. Sleepovers the perfect way to reconnect beyond the school day and catch up on the latest gossip. Inspired by this particular facet of teenage-hood, writer Matilda Feyiṣayọ Ibini presents Sleepova, an ode to black women and their boundless spirits, as we join Rey, Elle, Shan and Fungi at a sleepover of there’s as they divulge school gossip and ask eachother secret questions. Due to play at the Bush Theatre from the 24th February, Matilda tells us more about exploring the show’s core theme of friendship further, the show’s casting process and working with the creative team to bring the show to life!

Hi Matilda, your show Sleepova will show at the Bush Theatre from the 24th February to 8th April. How are you feeling ahead of the run? 

Excited and nervous, relieved and stressed, lot of conflicting feelings at once. I think because it’s my first in-person show back into this different world.

Sleepova is an ode to black women and their boundless spirits, as we join Rey, Elle, Shan and Fungi at a sleepover of there’s as they divulge school gossip and ask eachother secret questions. How have you found exploring their friendship further?  

I’ve been on quite the journey with these characters, they’ve kind of grown up with me. I’m excited to put their friendship in front of an audience but I’m also a little sad to say goodbye to them. It’s been sooo much fun watching the actors breathe life into these characters, they’ve evolved and become even more vivid than I could have written them. It’s literal magic in front of my eyes and I can’t wait for the audience to experience that.

The show stars Bukky Bakray (as Funmi), Amber Grappy (as Alfreda or Rey), Aliyah Odoffin (as Shanice) and Shaayde Sinclair (as Elle). How involved were you with the casting process? How has it felt seeing your characters come to life?  

I wasn’t at the auditions but me and Jade had lots and lots of conversations about the characters, their world and then what we were looking for in the actors and what we hoped actors could bring to the company. It’s always a scary process because you’re hoping you find the right actors that can tap into the essences of these characters and when we had the first read through with Bukky, Amber, Aliyah and Shayde – they were great. How did we luck out with such a brilliant and generous cast and that’s down to Jade and Jatinder.

The show is written by yourself, directed by Jade Lewis, with set and costume design by Cara Evans, lighting design by Elliot Griggs, sound design by XANA, dramaturgy by Deidre O’Halloran, movement direction from Gabrielle Nimo amongst a committed team of creatives. How have you all worked together to realise the show?

Lots of google meetings and whatsapp messages. Good and clear systems of communicating is key. This helped to keep everyone up to date on drafts as the script evolved. Also, what I think helped was the creative team read much earlier drafts so they’ve been able to see the scripts progression, and were able to give thoughts on how the set can could impact the story, which opened my mind to ideas and moments that responded to the set, lighting and costume. It was a very collaborative process.

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

That I’m still a writer even if I haven’t written for a long while or if I’m burnt out or have no ideas. Creating this show has also reminded me that when you find the right cast and creative team they make anything feel possible.

What can audiences expect from the show?  

Top tier talent treading the stage! Sick direction! Dazzling lighting! Wicked set!  Banging soundtrack! And the writing’s decent.

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

Sleepova’s are sacred spaces! You should have more sleepova’s in your life (the planned ones and the spontaneous ones) and you’re never too old or too young to go to/host a sleepova.

Questions by Lucy Basaba.

Sleepova will show from Friday 24th February until Saturday 8th April 2023 at the Bush Theatre. To find out more about the production, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop