Unity Theatre to tour Nina – a story about me and Nina Simone thanks to 95,000 grant from Arts Council England.

Posted on 12 July 2017
By Khyle Deen
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Unity Theatre announces that its exceptionally successful co-production with Sweden’s Riksteatern Nina – a story about me and Nina Simone will tour the UK nationally in 2018, with the last stop being Liverpool.

News of a successful application to the Arts Council’s National Lottery funded Strategic Touring programme comes just weeks after Unity Theatre confirmed that National Portfolio Organisation status had been secured for 4 years, during the period of 2018-22.

Since the world premiere of the production at Unity Theatre in October 2016, the show has embarked on a 30 date National tour of Sweden and is about to commence a two week, sold out, run at the Young Vic in London’s West End and 8 performances at the Traverse Theatre during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (5 – 13 August).

Details and tour dates for the 2018 run of performances will be announced in the Autumn.

Nina – a story about me and Nina Simone is a searing and soulful theatre piece inspired by the life and music of Nina Simone. Taking in the singer’s political acts as part of the Civil Rights Movement in 1960s America as well as the struggles in her personal life, Josette Bushell-Mingo finds a parallel with the persisting inequality in today’s society, and questions how far we’ve really come.

Versions of some of Nina Simone’s best-loved songs combine with a clear provocation in this production directed by Dritëro Kasapi, with dramaturgy by Christina Anderson. Design and costume is by Rosa Maggiora, musical direction by Shapor Bastansiar, lighting by Matt Haskins, video by Dritëro Kasapi.

Matthew Linley, Unity Theatre Artistic Director and CEO said: ‘Nina – a story about me and Nina Simone really is a remarkable production which has attracted both critical acclaim and very deep, personal and profound audience response where ever it has been performed so far, be that in the UK or Sweden.

We are delighted that Arts Council England has chosen to support the UK tour of the production through its National Lottery funded Strategic Touring programme, where Nina – a story about me and Nina Simone will bring diverse audiences together throughout England to talk about issues which concern the times we live in now.

In conjunction with the tour, we will lead an Audience Development programme to encourage BAME audiences to visit theatre for the first time – sending the message that all audiences are welcome in England’s theatres.

At Unity Theatre we consistently talk about subjects on our stages which wouldn’t be discussed elsewhere. With this tour we take the questions that Josette and Dritëro are asking to as wide and as diverse an audience as possible.”

Jane Beardsworth, Director North, Arts Council England said “I’m pleased that we’re supporting Nina – a story about me and Nina Simone through our Strategic touring programme. This co-production with Sweden’s Riksteatern has already toured widely and I’m delighted that audiences in England will now have the chance to see this thought-provoking work.”

Josette Bushell-Mingo OBE is a Swedish-based English theatre actress and director. She was nominated for an Olivier Award in 2000 for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Rafiki in the London production of The Lion King. In 2001, she founded a black-led arts festival called PUSH at the Young Vic. Her credits at the Young Vic include: Simply Heavenly (as a director, also West End) and The Iron Man.

Her other directing credits include: Glo (The Volcano Theatre, Canada), When We Dead Awaken (The Vasterbottensteatean, Sweden, Unity Theatre, Liverpool), The Ghost Sonata (The People Show) and The Penelopiad (RSC).

Her acting credits for theatre include: Antony and Cleopatra (Royal Exchange, Manchester), Vagina Monologues (New Ambassadors Theatre) and The Creation, Death & Knowledge In Everyman, Virtuoso, The Two Gentlemen of Verona (RSC). For television, her credits include: Blood River. Her film credits include: Blood In Their Eyes.

Dritëro Kasapi is a theatre director based in Stockholm, Sweden. He was educated at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts in Skopje, Macedonia, where he originates from and where he started his career. Dritëro’s work has been performed internationally at many festivals including Wiener Festwochen, Bonn Biennale and Festival d’Avignon. He was an artistic leader of the CTC, a producing theatre and education centre in Skopje, Macedonia, from 1999-2005, Artistic Director of Gottsunda Dance and Theatre in Uppsala Sweden from 2005-2008 and is currently Deputy Artistic Director of Kulturhuset Stadsteatern in Stockholm. His recent credits include: Hamlet, Enron, An Enemy of the People and Lampedusa.

Nina – a story about me and Nina Simone performed by Josette Bushell-Mingo and directed by Dritëro Kasapi will tour the UK in 2018. Dramaturgy is by Christina Anderson, design and costume by Rosa Maggiora, musical direction by Shapor Bastansiar, lighting by Matt Haskins and video by Dritëro Kasapi.