And Breathe dominates Black British theatre awards

Yomi Ṣode’s one-hander and Regent’s Park production of Romeo and Juliet win four awards each

A one-man play about grief and a contemporary version of a Shakespearean classic have dominated the Black British theatre awards, with both receiving four honours.

A lifetime achievement award was also presented to Derek Griffiths, whose 57-year career has spanned Play School in the 1970s to his current appearance in The Mousetrap in the West End.

Derek Griffiths, pictured in 2017, received a lifetime achievement award.
Derek Griffiths, pictured in 2017, received a lifetime achievement award. Photograph: Ian West/PA

His “multidisciplinary genius” and presence as a man of colour on children’s television had provided a transformative role model, said the awards’ organisers.

Yomi Ṣode’s play And Breathe, which ran at the Almeida in north London earlier this year, won best director, best production, best male actor and best musical director. The play was “expertly directed” by Miranda Cromwell, said the Guardian’s review, which praised its “sensational stagecraft”.

Miranda Cromwell at the 2020 Black British theatre awards.
Miranda Cromwell at the 2020 Black British theatre awards. Photograph: Kate Green/Getty Images

Its star, David Jonsson, performed an hour-long monologue on the themes of death, love and masculinity. Interacting with him on stage was Femi Temowo, composer and jazz guitarist, whose music “runs in tandem with Ṣode’s script, syncopating at times, bringing charm and comedy at others”, the review said.

Last year Cromwell won best director at the Olivier awards with her co-director Marianne Elliott for their West End production of Death of a Salesman. Jonsson has previously appeared in the television drama series Industry and Deep State.

Awards for Romeo and Juliet at the Regent’s Park Open Air theatre went to Isabel Adomakoh Young for best female actor in a play, Aretha Ayeh for best supporting female actor, Andrew French for best supporting male actor and Ingrid Mackinnon for best choreographer.

Adomakoh Young describes herself as an actor “with a determination for social change” and a “deep-rooted belief in the capacity of art in the hands of people to make change”. She has played Lady Macbeth at the National Youth Theatre and has worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal Court.

Jay Perry, currently performing in Hamilton, won an “LGBTQ+ champion” award. Earlier this year, he said: “There is lots of work to be done on issues like racial and gender equality, trans and non-binary inclusion and more disabled performer representation … We need to remember our value and strength as a collective to push for a better and more inclusive industry.”

The awards were presented by Cynthia Erivo and Danny Sapani at a ceremony in London on Sunday evening.