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Live Theatre on national tour of Princess & The Hustler from Eclipse Theatre

Written by Chinonyerem Odimba, Live Theatre & Northumbria University’s joint Writer in Residence

Eclipse Theatre has today announced the full cast for Princess & The Hustler, a new production from Eclipse which has been co-produced with Bristol Old Vic and Hull Truck Theatre. The play is set against the backdrop of one of the most pivotal moments of the Black British civil rights movement – the 1963 Bristol bus boycott.  

Leading the cast as Phyllis ‘Princess’ James is Kudzai Sitima (‘Sonnet Sunday’ for Shakespeare’s Globe,RANDOM/GENERATIONS’ for Chichester Minerva Theatre), with Romayne Andrews (‘Hamlet’, ‘King Lear’, ‘Cymbeline’ for the Royal Shakespeare Company) as Leon, Donna Berlin (‘Of Kith and Kin’ for Sheffield Crucible/The Bush, ‘Anna Karenina’ for the Royal Exchange/West Yorkshire Playhouse) as Mavis, Emily Burnett (‘The Dumping Ground’ for CBBC, ‘The Snow Queen’ for Bristol Old Vic) as Lorna, Seun Shote (‘One Man Two Guvnors’ for the Royal National Theatre, ‘Black Mirror’ for Netflix, ‘Unforgotten’ for ITV) as Wendell ‘The Hustler’, Fode Simbo (‘Young Marx’ for Bridge Theatre, ‘Little Women’ for the BBC) as Wendell ‘Junior’, and Jade Yourell (‘Absolute Hell’ for the National Theatre, ‘Country Girls’ for Chichester Festival) as Margot.  

Through a series of workshops, the Eclipse team will also be looking for members of the Black community from each of the towns and cities on the tour to be part of the community chorus and play an important part in the final production. Those who are interested are encouraged to keep an eye on for more information on how to get involved or to email with any questions.

Following last year’s sell-out acclaimed production of Black Men Walking, Princess & The Hustler is the second hidden historic Black British story to come out of Revolution Mix, an Eclipse movement that is spearheading the largest ever delivery of new Black British writing. 

Written by Bristol-based Chinonyerem Odimba, who is currently Live Theatre and Northumbria University’s joint Writer In Residence 2018/19 was awarded the 2018 Sonia Friedman Productions Award in recognition of her play How to Walk on The Moon, Princess & The Hustler, which was shortlisted for the Alfred Fagon Award, will be directed by Eclipse Theatre’s artistic director Dawn Walton, who also directed Black Men Walking. The designer is Simon Kenny, also on the team for Black Men Walking and the multi-award winning Sweeney Todd. Aideen Malone, who has worked on A Monster Calls at The Old Vic in London and Jane Eyre at the National Theatre, as well as A Raisin In The Sun for Eclipse, joins the team as lighting director. Sound design is by Richard Hammarton, who was sound designer for the Olivier Award winning play The Mountaintop and also worked on the Ivor Novello winning TV series Ripper St.

Despite the 1963 Bristol bus boycott being a major turning point for Black British civil rights, the story is barely known outside of the South West. The boycott, which led to the first Equalities and Discrimination laws, occurred when eighteen-year-old Guy Bailey was refused a job interview by the Bristol Omnibus Company because of the colour of his skin. Set in this time, Princess & The Hustler is a family drama that tells the story of loveable protagonist Princess, a cheeky 10-year-old with a plan to win the Weston-Super-Mare Beauty Contest. Whilst Princess explores what it really means to be black and beautiful, her brother, a budding photographer, represents the beginning of an incredibly important moment in the documentation of Black British culture.

Dawn Walton comments,

“The fact that we have assembled such a fantastic cast for this new play is another indication of the growing excitement that is being generated in theatre through the Revolution Mix movement. The history matters. There were colour bars openly operating in the UK so recently in Britain, but it isn’t widely known. The actions and bravery of those involved in this protest should be celebrated across the country, and it’s incredibly important that we shine a light on the rich seam of material that completes the British story.”

Princess & The Hustler comes to Live Theatre from Tuesday 9 – Saturday 13 April. Tickets will go on sale in Live Theatre’s new season announced in early February. 

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