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Blog Posts (301)

  • In Conversation with Sule Rimi

    We met with Sule Rimi at National Theatre to discuss the upcoming production, Blues for an Alabama Sky, which he stars in as Sam Thompson. The 1995 play by Pearl Cleage heads to National Theatre, with direction from Lynette Linton. The story, set in 1930s New York, follows a group of friends as they battle to keep their artistic dreams alive. The revival has been described as ‘startling’ and Sule expressed his excitement to be working alongside Linton again. Sule Rimi hosts an impressive theatre career over the last few years; SWEAT (Donmar Warehouse), All My Sons (Old Vic), Barbershop Chronicles (National Theatre), and most recently, Jitney (Old Vic). Our conversation was an opportunity for Sule to share the journey for the production, what the audience can expect and his favourite thing about performing on stage! What drew you to this production of Blues for an Alabama Sky? Sule: So many factors. Knowing who was attached to it for one, in terms of who was directing, actors that I've worked with, actors I've wanted to work with for a long time. But I was just really excited to work with Lynette again, because she's wonderful. I just know Lynette is going to put amazing flesh and skin on this [story]. It’s going to be a collaborative process. Telling the story for black people has been a timeless struggle in one form or another. To be able to tell this story to show how far we’ve come and how far we still need to go, with the aide of these incredible creatives that are involved – I think it’s just hard to resist. Especially in this building! Could you share some of the themes of the play? Sule: There is stuff that is going to make it relevant, especially after the events of the last couple of years in America. Reproductive freedom, the artistic renaissance of the Harlem scene in the 30s, prohibition, homosexuality - all these things are covered. It focuses on how these five characters - from different parts of America, different backgrounds, all black – are functioning and affected by those things at that time. It's also the beginning of the Depression, there’s segregation in parts of America. All of that is going on, and we are seeing it from the perspective of these five individuals, that we come to know – and either love or hate. It’s a play that makes you think about where we stand as a society at any one given point in time. How are the rehearsals going? Sule: They’re going great. Everybody has the same goal of just making this story bang as much as possible. And to do justice to Pearl’s vision when she wrote the story. There's so much talent in the room. I look in there every day and feel so lucky. Our staff, Director, Ensemble; everybody's chipping in. We've had such a good time that we didn't realise we were at the end of week five of rehearsals. Everybody's really enjoying coming into work, seeing each other and that really helps. Not only does it help, obviously the process, but it helps with the finished product that you see on the stage, in terms of the interaction of the characters. It just feels good and feels like it’s where it needs to be. You will be playing Sam Thomas. What can you tell us about the character? Sule: Everybody likes Sam. Sam is the life of the party. He's a doctor, specialising in gynaecology/obstetrics. He's also a bit of a party animal (laughs). He’s a very influential person in the Harlem community and within the church. He’s also a very good and loyal friend to the characters of Angel and Guy. I’m loving playing Sam. The last guy I played was a guy that wasn’t very liked. Sam is effortlessly well-liked and always seems to make a good impression wherever he goes. What can the audience expect from this production? Sule: Love, laughter, heartache! There’s so much. Topical scenarios like Roe v Wade springs to mind. You can expect love, friendship, and loyalty between friends. You can expect to laugh, a bit of music. I think you’re going to enjoy watching how these friends interact and how they deal with love. Expect to go on a journey. It’s a very beautiful piece, in terms of context and aesthetics. We are making something that’s going to be really pleasing. What do you enjoy the most about performing on stage? Sule: I guess the chance to correct stuff. You do something one night and it may not necessarily work. You get the chance to address it, try and find the truth of what that scene is and what that character’s journey is. You get the chance to make it right and see the effect that it has on people watching. For example, as Turbo [in Jitney], when I come out with a gun, people gasp. For two to three hours, the audience are so engrossed and completely transported into another world. It doesn’t matter what’s going on outside or in their lives. On stage, we are in a different world too. I love not only being lost in something like that, but also making everybody watching get lost. It’s the magic of theatre. I do plays that align with my political beliefs. I never try and change anyone’s opinion, but I let you know what I’m thinking. And if I can do that through the stories I’m telling – I think it’s a privilege. Describe the show in 3 words. Sule: Timeless, haunting, and heart-breaking. Final questions – favourite book, favourite album, favourite play? Sule: Favourite book – The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper Favourite album - Doggystyle - Snoop Dogg Favourite play I’ve been in – Barbershop Chronicles. Favourite play I’ve watched – For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Hue Gets Too Heavy. Blues for an Alabama Sky plays from 21st September until 5th November on the National Theatre’s Lyttelton stage.

  • In Conversation With: Lizzie Berchie

    Gifted with golden vocals, Lizzie Berchie is a talented singer-songwriter from East London. She is part of the new wave of artists redefining neo-soul with bold and unapologetic messages. Lizzie tells The Floor Mag that she has always wanted to make “uplifting”, “affirming” and sometimes “spiritual” music. This summer, she delivered a sensational debut EP Under the Sun, which does just that through a series of first-person narratives. From the UK to Ghana, the artist channels the voices of women at different periods in their lives, calling attention to their experiences. The 5-track project opens with the melodious hit single “Pass Time” featuring Kofi Stone that put Lizzie on the industry’s radar. Her vibrato is reminiscent of Lianne La Havas, the sound is so delicate and yet self-assured at the same time. Layered with saxophonist solos and oral folktales in Twi, Under the Sun is imbued with a certain richness that every neo-soul record should have. Despite the six year gap, sharing a room with her sister formed a watertight bond and Lizzie’s love for R&B. “She was so militant about us singing because she loved it. She’d say, ‘I’ll take the high harmony and you take the low harmony,’ she didn’t even know it but was teaching me how to sing,” she says. After saving up their dinner money, the sisters bought the three albums at Woolworths on Leytonstone High Road that would set Lizzie on a musical path: “We bought Usher’s Confessions album, Destiny Child’s Destiny Fulfilled and Justin Timberlake’s Justified. I swear, for three years straight, those albums played over and over to the point that the CDs were scratched and you knew when a glitch was coming.” Elsewhere, her dad’s highlife records filled her home with West Africa’s finest blend of local rhythms and jazz. The rich rumblings of Ebo Taylor and Fela Kuti were the backdrop of Christmases, carefree dancing and a joyful childhood. Growing up in the London borough of Newham, the birthplace of grime, the MCs spraying bars and recording videos on Lizzie’s street were abundant. Sonically, the neo-soul singer is as far away from 140 BPM as possible, but she says, “grime has always been reflective of people’s real lives and that’s what I’ve always tried to do with my music”. This sense of realness permeated Lizzie’s artistry, so when recounting crippling stories, like that of the enslaved woman in “Nsala”, you’ll notice that she doesn’t flinch. From their “affirming” lyricism to their willingness to deliver raw vocals, Lizzie predominantly takes inspiration from vocal powerhouses Jazmine Sullivan and Lauryn Hill. Tone, range and vocal agility make up the holy trinity of qualities that Lizzie adores. “Jazmine Sullivan’s voice is just incredible. She's got a beautiful raspy tone and this ability to run through notes. She sings like an instrumentalist plays an instrument,” she says. Between her perfectly-timed riffs and harmonies silkier than shea butter, Lizzie’s own vocal prowess is rising to the fore. Though, this wasn’t always the case, “I was an extremely shy child,” she says. But her teacher encouraged her to study musical theatre at school, then songwriting at the Leeds Conservatoire (Leeds of College of Music), which gave her a much needed boost. “Some people are born with loads of confidence, but others genuinely have to work for it. I think I had to do that. Forcing myself to be in uncomfortable situations, taking the big roles in school, and being in front of a crowd. I had to unlearn being nervous,” says Lizzie. In Leeds, doors were opened for her to compose, produce and sing with live bands. There, she met Danny Hilton, co-producer of Under the Sun, “The first day I met him, I knew we were gonna be friends for life. He was just so funny, full of energy and immediately felt like family”. All these connections in her musical journey have seen the blossoming of an artiste, who turns emboldened lyrics into songs like “Pass Time”: “I don’t want your love forever / it’s a meantime, pass time / I could never fall in love with you forever / I treasure my me time” Now, the artist has become the “Asaantenin Babe” that Ghanaian singer King Promise serenades in “Bra”, a “sweety” with the right amount of sass. “You can take me out of the country, but I’m still an Asaante girl,” she says with a chuckle. Whether it’s being in your feels or a “baddie revival”, Lizzie tells The Floor Mag that Under the Sun caters to a whole range of emotions: “The song “Feeling” is about a relationship where one person is being closed and the other wants them to be open and depend on them. It’s the most affirming song, especially with the bridge, ‘You don't have to be alone / You deserve to feel love’. It would really work for someone who's having a down time, but also, if you need a bit of a baddie mood or baddie revival, there’s “Pass Time” – get out of the dumps and start feeling yourself.” Throughout the EP, Lizzie finds space for her Ghanaian heritage. At the end of “Trying”, her dad tells a traditional Asaante tale of a woodpecker and a duck, “It’s about honouring and giving your elders the highest respect for all that they’ve done, even in death,” she says. The video depicts the freeing movement of dancers and their close-up portraits against luscious green vegetation. When Lizzie sings, “Oh it’s where I come from / Hidden lands under the sun,” she’s not just speaking from Nsala’s point of view, but her own, too. Lizzie is ecstatic about performing the EP with a full live band at her upcoming headline show. Though she usually forbades loved ones from playing her songs around her as she goes back to being “five-year-old cringe Lizzie,” she says her live shows are something entirely different. “Performing is when I’m more in my element and open to people experiencing my music,” she says, adding that “The time was right”. As such, Lizzie will be bringing her gift of sun-kissed vocals to London’s Servants Jazz Quarters on 20th September. Tickets for Lizzie’s 20 Nov show in Manchester are on sale here.

  • 5 Black Books for Lover Girls

    Summer is officially over - it’s getting darker earlier and Winter Wonderland Season is just around the corner. So The Floor Mag with help from its lovely writers has rounded up five books that are sure to keep the fire burning even as the temperature drops. From tropical getaways to campus trysts these are five books any Lover Girl (secret or otherwise) should be reading this autumn. ‘Until I Met You’ By Amber Rose Gill and Nadine Gonzalez Amber Rose Gill’s debut novel (co-written by Nadine Gonzalez) takes us on newly single Samantha’s trip, from her home city of Manchester to a luxury resort in Tobago. Dreading facing the trip alone, where she will attend her childhood best friend’s wedding, Samantha begrudgingly seeks refuge in the also newly single, mysterious Roman Carver. But ‘Until I Met You’ is more than a modern spin on an easy-read romance, the novel’s true magic lies within the flawed friendship group, their dedication to one another, and their struggles with the ever-changing dynamics of adulthood. Throughout the group’s time on the island, we see how relationships - familial, platonic, and romantic alike - unravel under the close confines of the resort. As this group is forced to have honest conversations, being truly open with themselves and each other, we see how they eventually come together and form connections that may last a lifetime… Or perhaps just for a holiday? ‘Honey and Spice’ by Bolu Babalola Self-titled Romcomoisseur™ and pop-culture Queen Bolu Babalola shows no signs of stopping in her journey to make the world fall in love with the worlds she creates. Her debut novel ‘Honey and Spice’ is set in the hallowed halls of Whitewell University, where our heroine Kiki Banjo lets her fellow students know exactly what the male population of Whitewell is thinking and how to avoid heartbreak. Now Kiki isn’t perfect, as we learn throughout the novel she has her own hang-ups to contend with and new student Malakai isn’t making life any easier. Scorchingly hot, Babalola’s way with words will leave you hooked, interactions between Kiki and Malakai feel like too much and yet not enough. Babalola takes over-used tropes and breathes fresh life into them - ensuring that readers are left pinning for more of Kiki’s wit and Malakai’s smooth talking. ‘Honey and Spice’ once more proves that Babalola will always be wholly unapologetic in her Blackness, her craft and her way with words. ‘Get a Life, Chloe Brown’ by Talia Hibbert The first in a triple bill, ‘Get a Life, Chloe Brown’ refreshingly dives head first into the world of non-visible disabilities and the concept that as strong as we are, it’s okay to have help. Probably the steamiest book in this round-up, ‘Get a Life, Chloe Brown’ focuses on protagonist Chloe and her desire to live her life to the max. With help from her landlord, Red, Chloe is working her way through a list of things she’s always wanted to do. Hibbert craftily weaves a solid storyline with the occasional page or two of smut thrown in for good measure. I appreciate how Hibbert doesn’t seek to diminish her character's experiences or over romanticse the situations they find themselves in, Chloe uses sarcasm to mask her vulnerability, Red is no saint either. ‘Confessions of an Alleged Good Girl’ by Joya Goffney YA Queen Goffney, has done it again! This time tackling themes of religion and purity culture, our protagonist, Monique is a ‘good girl' for all her outward appearances. But she’s struggling with something that she doesn’t quite understand and with the help of some new friends, she’ll be able to come to terms with her faith, her body and all the bits in-between. Goffney’s tackling of issues which are normally saved for women’s Bible study groups are dealt with from a young perspective with a twist that I didn’t see coming. We also are treated to insights of what it might be like to be the child of a Preacher and how this shapes Monique's place in society as a young Black woman. The best thing about Goffney’s latest novel is that even though it’s about a boy, at its heart it’s not. Monique might be trying to figure out how to win a boy over but ultimately she gains something much more important along the way which she had been seeking over the romantic, a solution. ‘Who’s Loving You’ edited by Sareeta Domingo With a range of authors, all excelling in their individual crafts outside of this anthology including Kelechi Okafor, Sara Collins and Varaidzo, ‘Who’s Loving You’ is a collection of short stories edited by Sareeta Domingo. For me, ‘Who’s Loving You’ is like getting into bed when it’s storming outside. It’s comforting. Although not all stories have a romanticised ending, they are perfectly placed and timed alongside their characterisation. Even though love was at the centre of each story, larger themes of family, grief and uncertainty trickled throughout and whilst some flames roared, others simmered. You can read our columnist, Karen’s full review of ‘Who’s Loving You’ here. Additional words by Sophie Harman

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  • All Music Posts | THE FLOOR MAG

    Book Review: The Other Black Girl By Zakiya DaliLa Harris Book Review: His Only Wife By Peace Adzo Medie Book Review: Who's Loving You In Conversation With: Iman Lake Book Review: Big Feelings Tobi Kyeremateng Interview: On "Theatre Sh*t" Beginner's Guide to Manga Festival Review: Bare Lit Game Of Thrones: 10 Most Iconic Scenes 2020 Must Reads By Black Women How To 'Eat The Rich' in Four Films Review: When will you let yourself see? Music

  • All Literature Posts | THE FLOOR MAG

    In Conversation With: Iman Lake Lovecraft Country: Pairing The Black Experience & The Supernatural Book Review: Who's Loving You Review: When will you let yourself see? Book Review: Diary of a Creative Mind Festival Review: Bare Lit Book Review: His Only Wife By Peace Adzo Medie Game Of Thrones: 10 Most Iconic Scenes Book Review: Big Feelings In Conversation With: Aimée Felone The Michelle Obama Podcast: Reflective, Candid and Conversational In Conversation With: Sareeta Domingo 10 Upcoming Books by Black Authors You Can't Sit With Us... Tobi Kyeremateng Interview: On "Theatre Sh*t" Book Review: The Other Black Girl By Zakiya DaliLa Harris Beginner's Guide to Manga 2020 Must Reads By Black Women How To 'Eat The Rich' in Four Films Music Doesn't Make Legacies In Conversation With: Hena Bryan Malorie Blackman In Conversation 8 Mangas That Outdid Their Animes Book Review: His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie In Conversation With: Guvna B Book Review: Obalende Sector Book Review: Keep The Receipts Book Review: The Book Of Echoes 2022 Books to Look Out For Book Review: Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert Book Review: Bitter by Akwaeke Emezi books Book Review: The Other Black Girl By Zakiya DaliLa Harris Book Review: His Only Wife By Peace Adzo Medie Book Review: Who's Loving You In Conversation With: Iman Lake Book Review: Big Feelings Tobi Kyeremateng Interview: On "Theatre Sh*t" Beginner's Guide to Manga Festival Review: Bare Lit Game Of Thrones: 10 Most Iconic Scenes 2020 Must Reads By Black Women How To 'Eat The Rich' in Four Films Review: When will you let yourself see? Poetry

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