A former Westminster Kingsway College student’s powerful drama about a young gay, black woman at her wits’ end has been shortlisted for an award. babirye bulkilwa, 28, who is also an actor, poet and model, has been named among the finalists in The Women’s Prize for Playwriting for their short play, …blackbird hour.
The competition celebrates and supports women playwrights by discovering and promoting the best new work from writers at all levels of experience.
babirye, who uses they, has described their play as “a call to arms to loving oneself when love has evaporated from the body” and said it was inspired by events in their own life.
They said: “It’s about a young, gay, black woman and her safe space, which is her bedroom, and her unanswered questions about love and life. I enjoy storytelling. I’ve always been drawn to creating stories and pictures. Writing allows me to do that, while performing is unlike any type of happiness I have ever felt.”
babirye was pleased to be among the finalists in the competition but feels more needs to be done to promote black and gay artists, writers and performers.
“Without competitions like this, nobody with big pockets would pay my work any attention, but I am proud of myself. I had an idea and I finished it,” babirye said.
…blackbird hour was previously shortlisted for the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting, run in partnership with the Royal Exchange Theatre.
babirye recently appeared on stage in …cake, a prequel to Blackbird Hour, at Theatre Peckham.
Listen to …blackbird hour on the Fizzy Sherbert podast, performed by babirye and Michael Balogun, and directed by Anna Girvan (please note: the piece contains strong language).
babirye studied our Performing Arts diploma from 2008 to 2010. “I remember going to see lots of plays, and really analysing theatrical language and technique. My teachers really supported me and celebrated my talent,” they said.
“The lessons were intense, but always provocative. I learnt so much.”
Last year babirye performed opposite Hollywood star Cate Blanchett in When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other at the National Theatre. Her film and TV credits include the BBC series’ Casualty and Our Girl.
babirye co-founded the Sistren podcast to give a voice for the black lesbian community and was named among 10 female creatives in The Guardian newspaper in 2018. babirye is one half of a comedy duo Ackee & Saltfish, seen on BBC Three, and has also modelled for brands including Dr Martens, Adidas, Macy’s and Burberry.