It’s a drizzly Friday, and the mid-week slog is drifting in. Hours before my interview with playwright Zodwa Nyoni, I’d pictured the northern city of Hull as a distant industrial enigma. But after our conversation, it is transformed into a city teeming with colour and cultural offerings. Voted in 2013 as the UK’s City of Culture, this year Hull stands to hallmark itself well within the fabric of the UK’s cultural sector. Amongst the fruitful offerings of theatre billed on the program, the women’s voices that sing loud and distinct.
One of the voices is poet turned playwright Zodwa Nyoni. Back in May 2016, the Zimbabwean born, Leeds raised playwright joined writerly forces with Amy Skinner and young theatre company THE ROARING GIRLS, to produce Weathered Estates; a contemporary retelling of Euripides’ Women of Troy. Reigniting shared conversations around themes of asylum seekers, loss, migration, displacement and love. The play endeavours to present a mirage of such themes set across four different time periods, mapping Hull’s largely ignored history of conflict. In WW2, Hull was in fact the most bombed city outside of London; almost 95% of its houses were devastated between 1940-1941. Such facts and figures were overshadowed by the sheer disarray of post-blitz London. For Nyoni, the project Weathered Estates is intended to re-focus the lense on. “What I found dramatically, is that emotions that are human experiences, translate racially and culturally”, remarks Nyoni. It’s exactly this, our universal capacity to empathise with adversity and affliction that has enabled Nyoni to rework the classical text into a narrative that can be digested by all. “I wanted the audience to remember what it’s like to be ignored or forgotten…to focus the conversation around loss.”
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