Astonishingly, in 2012, despite a century of women’s emancipation, and the triumphant upsurgence of feminist theatre in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, Mama Quilla is one of a tragically shrinking number of theatre companies in the world that aim to specifically represent the female viewpoint on current world political issues.
Mama Quilla’s first three major productions, THE BOGUS WOMAN, BITES, and BONES, were all performed at The Bush Theatre and published by Oberon Books.
THE BOGUS WOMAN was awarded a Fringe First at Edinburgh and was shortlisted for the Susan Smith Blackburn Award and an EMMA; its performer Noma Dumezweni received the Manchester Evening News Best Fringe Performer Award. In Adelaide, Sarah Niles won Best Fringe Performer and the play was awarded the Fringe Sensation Award. BITES was shortlisted for the Susan Smith Blackburn Award.
The Mama Quilla Initiative was launched by Kay Adshead and a company of ex-acting and creative students of the City Lit. Operating as a pod inside the company, Mama Quilla, its aim is to create and perform rapid-response theatre, producing original, innovative, mixed-media performance responding to the times and to provoke debate. Initially, it aims to create seed or workshop productions some of which will be further developed.
Performers create a fixed repertory company but actors outside the core team may be invited to join the company for specific projects. The Mama Quilla Initiative has its own fixed creative/technical team and its own Workers’ Board.
The Mama Quilla Initiative was launched in April 2011 with a 10-minute platform performance, WE WOMEN SPEAK THE WORDS OF ORDINARY LIBYANS. Devised from verbatim accounts from Libya and performed in the foyer of The Broadway Theatre, Barking, it was a short companion piece to IF ANYONE RECOGNISES THESE YOUNG PEOPLE…, which was devised and directed for 30 young East Enders inspired by the student protests against tuition fees, December 9, 2010.
THE WOMEN’S SPRING and THE SINGING STONES, developed from WE WOMEN SPEAK THE WORDS OF ORDINARY LIBYANS, were performed as part of the inaugural Mama Quilla Initiative debut event THEATRE OF PROTEST. They performed to a sell-out audience at The Roundhouse, January 15, 2012. The event involved over 90 performers and a team of 15 creatives, with 9 new commissions including one Live Art piece from Mark Civil and two short films, STONES made by Sarah Auber and Simon McCabe, and UNTITLED made by Lise Marker and Heide Hasbrouck.
THE WOMEN’S SPRING and THE SINGING STONES will be rewritten and developed further for a reworked production in 2012/2013 as a double bill integrating specially commissioned film fragments and animation.