During the ’70s and -80s there was an explosion of black-led theatre companies which emerged as a result of a burgeoning group of black creative talent who felt excluded from mainstream spaces. This young and fearless generation of theatre producers, actors and actresses aimed to make productions exploring what it meant to be Black and British, as well as create an environment where young black practitioners could access training in all aspects of theatre-making. Michael Mayhew was the National Theatre’s Art Director when he was asked to take publicity shots of the newly formed Black Theatre Co-operative in 1979. Using a 35mm black and white film on a Nikon EL2 camera, the grainy black and white shots captured the spirit of hope of the company’s cast and company members. Now over thirty years later in an exhibition entitled Bright Young Tings, Mayhew’s stunning and evocative images are on full display at The National Theatre. Look out for the sparkly-eyed headshots of seasoned thespians such as Victor Romeo Evans, Janet Kay, Chris Tummings and Vas Blackwood.
The Bright Young Tings exhibition with new artwork from Cherelle Sappleton is currently running at the Lyttelton Lounge at the National Theatre until 15 April. Admission is free. A series of events will run alongside the exhibition to explore and challenge the content and context of the work. Visit nationaltheatre.org.uk for further details.