Caro Meets Festivals Interview

Ebenezer Bamgboye: Footprints Festival

By | Published on Friday 1 July 2022

Coming up this week at Jermyn Street Theatre is the return of the venue’s Footprints Festival, which means you can look forward to lots of new and exciting work from up and coming artists. 

The festival is creatively directed by JST’s Deputy Director Ebenezer Bamgboye, who also directs the flagship production of ‘The Anarchist’ by Karina Wiedman. 

I spoke to Ebenezer to find out more about all the works on as part of Footprints Festival this month, and about the director himself.  

CM: Can you start by explaining what the Footprints Festival is? 
EB: Footprints Festival is an annual festival of new writing at Jermyn Street Theatre that celebrates new, exciting and emerging voices.

CM: Who is involved with it and how was the content of it chosen?  
EB: There are two main pillars that comprise the festival this year. Firstly, it platforms the winning play of our inaugural Woven Voices Prize in a full production running across the month as the headline show, alongside readings of the runner up and finalists. The Woven Voices Prize is a new writing competition we launched this year in partnership with the Woven Voices Company, purely for migrant artists.

The second pillar of the festival this year is the work of our Creative Associates. Together these two pillars comprise a rich selection of new work from new, exciting and emerging theatre voices. 

CM: Can you explain who the Creative Associates are and what they do?
EB: They are a cohort of ten exceptional early career artists across the disciplines of directing, writing, producing and design, who are attached to the theatre for a year. 

With us they receive mentorship, assisting opportunities, workshops, an R&D opportunity and – as I said – the opportunity to platform their work in full productions for short runs in our Footprints Festival.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about each of the plays? 
EB: The Woven Voices Prize Winner – ‘The Anarchist’ – tells the story of middle-aged, middle-management Dasha who is ordered to quell the anti-government protests in her factory in Belarus by firing sixty workers. Her only escape is a one-way ticket to JFK, but when Dasha prepares to flee she cannot escape memories of her rebellious youth resisting the Soviets.

‘Duck’, written by Creative Associate Maatin and directed by Abbey Creative Associate Imy Wyatt Corner, is a searing examination of the inner workings of an elite schoolboy cricket team, exploring how racism boldly infects our most polite of institutions. 

‘Shake The City’, written by Johnston Creative Associate Millie Gaston and designed by Creative Associate Caitlin Mawhinney, is a riotous story about 1970s cloth workers Lori, Wendy, Margaret and Heather as they set up their own makeshift Women’s Liberation Movement meetings in the fight for equal pay.

And ‘The Poison Belt’, produced by Creative Associate Jo Walker and directed and adapted by Creative Associate Becca Chadder, is a new adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s hair-raising tale of five characters trapped in a room as earth heads unstoppably towards a deadly gas cloud.

CM: As you are directing ‘The Anarchist’, can we talk about that in a bit more depth? Can you tell us about the themes it engages with and why you wanted to direct it? 
EB: There are two big themes ‘The Anarchist’ deals with. Firstly, the necessity of self sacrifice for a higher purpose, namely justice. The internal conflict within the play’s protagonist is whether she flees to safety in the West from the political turmoil in Belarus, or stays and fights like the anarchist she once was.

A second theme is the fact that one can never escape from one’s true, inner, core self – even if you have taken a quick break! Dasha has taken a temporary break from the fighter within, but as she remembers her own past through flashbacks on this particular day, she is pulled back into her old self.

I wanted to direct it firstly because of the power of these themes, but also because of its visceral and virtuosic tone and how vivid and powerful the images are, which is a gift for any director to play with.

CM: There are some other events in addition to the full productions – can you tell us about those? 
EB: Yes, there is a staged performance of TS Eliot’s ‘The Wasteland’, plus, as I said, readings of the Woven Voices Prize runner up – ‘Unburied’ – and finalists -‘The Waiting Room’, ‘The Dead Box’ and ‘Coconut Republic’. 

CM: Can you tell us a bit about your history, now? How did you end up working in the arts, was it what you always wanted to do? 
EB: Pretty much, from at least the age of fifteen when I starred in a school production of ‘Anything Goes’! I went to university to study something non-theatre related but did lots of student theatre. I was interested in learning how to think! After that I trained at The Young Vic on their ‘Introduction To Directing’ course, started assistant directing and progressed from there. 

CM: Can you tell us more about your role at Jermyn Street? 
EB: My title is Deputy Director, which has involved devising, fundraising for and running our creative associates scheme, leading the Woven Voices Prize from the JST side, being the Creative Director of Footprints 22, and also creating and running ‘JST Conversations’, JST’s talkback/debate series.

CM: What have been the highlights of your career thus far? 
EB: Certainly my tenure at JST! When I started this role I’d just turned 26. My experience up to then had been mainly assistant and associate director roles – alongside making my own work on a smaller scale.

Although these were amazing learning experiences, they aren’t necessarily set up for one to be active and have influence – but rather to learn, which is important!

Being on the senior artistic team at a small theatre, however, has meant the opposite. I’ve been able to build, create, devise and, in a small way, make change in the industry. Within that, I’ve also been fortunate to direct two full length productions at JST. I am immensely grateful.

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future?
EB: Well having been lieutenant for a bit I would hope to one day be a general! The idea of being able to lead a space with a specific artistic identity and a clear voice within the theatre landscape feels very attractive to me indeed.

This is only one half of me however, I am also a creator, and the ultimate dream is to be able to consistently have the opportunity to create what I want to create. 

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
EB: I have a show in development with a big London theatre, so hopefully some more workshops on that. I also have some public third year drama school shows scheduled for the end of the year which I am very much looking forward to!

The Footprints Festival takes place at Jermyn Street Theatre from 6-30 Jul. See the venue’s listings here for all the plays, and here for the Woven Voices and ‘The Wasteland’ events. 

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