Maxine Quintyne-Kolaru: I Write About Human Struggle
Talawa Theatre is regarded as one of Britain’s foremost black-led theatre companies and has introduced emerging writing talents to the British theatre landscape over the years. As Talawa celebrates 25 years of work that has engaged theatre audiences and practitioners in the UK, and helped shape the way stories about BAME communities are told, it returns with Flipping The Script, its annual showcase of play readings. This year’s line up includes, Take Me To Manhattan by Maxine Quintyne-Kolaru, a play which examines the ill effects of alcoholism and abandonment on a teenager. In her own words, Quintyne-Kolaru explains why she writes about the human struggles.
Belinda Otas: Where does your passion for theatre come from?
Maxine Quintyne-Kolaru: I grew up with my Father telling me that writing is in our blood. My Mother’s father used to devise plays. He also used to act in, as well as direct Shakespeare’s plays in Barbados. Also, at school, I was completely in raptures at being taken to see Pinter’s CareTaker, Macbeth and Mona Hammond in Two Can Play.
Belinda Otas: Your play, Take Me 2 Manhattan comes across as a searing indictment on the ills of alcohol addiction and abandonment. What compelled you to tackle the subject of alcoholism and abandonment?
Maxine Quintyne-Kolaru: I write predominately about human struggle within familiar settings. This play falls within this dramatic trend.
Belinda Otas: Why tell this story through the eyes and voice /experiences of a 16-year-old?
Maxine Quintyne-Kolaru: I like to present characters that are driven to act through the compulsions of others. Children and young people are good vehicles for this, as they often have very little control over their own lives and their actions are therefore often a result of treatment received from others. I explored this in one of my earlier plays Mean Tme, where the central character, who is the same age as Ailleen, but her complete opposite, acts and reacts in a way which is at its root, driven by the ills of the adults around her.
Belinda Otas: The title, Take Me 2 Manhattan is equally as intriguing. Why that title and what’s the impression or reactions do you hope it makes or the audience or gets out of them based on the story that follows?
Maxine Quintyne-Kolaru: Manhattan is a Chicken Shop, like many hundreds of others dotted in and around inner city areas. But maybe Chicken Shops are that much more than fried chicken and inexpensive food. Maybe they’re magnets for so much more that happens to and with inner city people. As with all my plays I’d like the audience to be moved in some way by the story and not to feel like the telling of it is a chore.
Belinda Otas: Why is it important for plays which explore, examine and of course, expose the personal struggles like dealing with the issues of alcohol addiction, abandonment are presented to audiences?
Maxine Quintyne-Kolaru: Drama is personal/ human struggle, without struggle there is very little dramatic purpose.
Belinda Otas: The plays in this series of readings are all focused on different themes but held together by the strand of the black/BAME experience, what gives joy in exploring the stories that arise from the black experience?
Maxine Quintyne-Kolaru: The BAME/black experience is as diverse and engaging as BAME/black people and communities themselves. I like to present our/my people in situations/roles that don’t merely confine the black/BAME experience to gun and knife crime, the road to the nearest drug dealer, or having no choices but to escape from the nearest estate. I want to showcase a wider dialogue, which is possibly why my plays, as yet, have not received full staged performance! I think it’s difficult for Theatre’s to know, where to put them, or what they are/ represent, as so much of ‘black’ theatre that theatres are prepared to stage, is narrowly distilled into the gun/knife/drug/Estate cocktail!
Belinda Otas: You have worked with Talawa Theatre Company on this production/play readings, how crucial are theatre companies like Talawa Theatre Company in Britain’s theatre landscape today?
Maxine Quintyne-Kolaru: They are completely pivotal and necessary. Although I’ve been shortlisted three times for play Awards, Talawa is the only company that has given me a chance to have a full length play read to a paying audience, at a time when members of the audience can attend (7pm). Talawa has also given me the Young Vic for the evening! The support of this Black Theatre Company cannot be understated. I would however take time to recognise the ongoing support of Soho Theatre, the Royal Court and Leo Butler, Clean Break, Tristan Bates Theatre, Islington Community Theatre and Forest Fringe. I’d also like to highlight the work of Joy Francis and Paul Macey and their excellent opportunities to showcase the work of Black writers and journalists with Words of Colour, a new community enterprise.
Belinda Otas: Given the subject matter you are exploring in your play, what kind of emotions about the themes, as presented through your character, Aileen and her struggles, do you hope this play evokes in those who come a long to the reading?
Maxine Quintyne-Kolaru: I hope they will be moved, in whatever way. I hope they will laugh. I hope they will feel that they want to shout, or argue with the characters. I hope it will come alive to them. I hope they will join in with the songs, dance to the music, skank even!
Belinda Otas: You have other plays/readings under your belt, including, W.I.F.E, Shredder and Dislocated. However, how would you like this play to evolve after the reading?
Maxine Quintyne-Kolaru: I would like it to receive a full staged performance, at a major theatre, transfer to the West End, then to Broadway, then have a run to equal the Mousetrap.
Belinda Otas: What do you want the audience to take away from this play/reading?
Maxine Quintyne-Kolaru: The feeling that it was a jolly good play and they’d like to see it in full performance, as well as more staged play performances from the Writer.
To find out more go to: Flipping The Script