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Interview: What Exactly Is Bootycandy?

Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu on directing Bootycandy at Gate Theatre

Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu is an award-winning creative racing to the top. Impressively, he’s worked with theatres such as the Young Vic, Royal Court, Orange Tree and more recently Brixton House. For his next project Tristan is directing Bootycandy at the Gate Theatre where he is Associate Artist, and we were not a little bit delighted when we got to ask him about this new and exciting production.

Tristan, thanks so much for talking to us. Firstly, we really want to congratulate you on the West End transfer of For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Hue Gets Too Heavy, which you co-directed to great acclaim. How do you feel about it?

It’s an amazing moment in Black British theatre history. We haven’t had a play like that in the West End, in that form, for as long as I can personally remember. And it is a very important play, which deals with topics like father figures, identity, suicide, and sexuality; holding them all in a playful and imaginative way for black men in that space. I hope it inspires more work like it.

You’re a South London boy by background, now directing Bootycandy which is an American play, based on semi-autobiographical experiences of the author, Robert O’Hara. What do you think it can say about British culture today?

If this is but one messy explosive mind from a black queer person, how many more are out there, especially within Britain? If you think this is something, now imagine how many black queer artists are out there who could flourish with this amount of money, time and space? I chose it so we as an audience continue placing a spotlight on black queer artists. What else is out there? What else can we create if we give people more ownership to make work and tell their stories?

The word ‘fantasia’ was used to describe For Black Boys… Can we expect any of that unique style in Bootycandy?

YES. Bootycandy is a euphoric cacophony.

Bootycandy discusses very adult themes but with lots of humour. Is this important to you in trying to share the messages within the play to wider audiences?

It is. One thing I’ve noticed about black people and our lives; what we are interested in. We are interested in the funny, joyful, tragic, light. Our lives can be all of these things at the same time, especially in relation to the young black queer experience. The play is funny because our lives have humour. What it gives us is a space to choose whether to laugh or not. It does not reprimand you for laughing, but it does want you to ask why.

Tell us a bit about the cast you’ve got in place.

I’m very excited about this cast. It is full of multi-talented artistic devisers and creatives whose minds cater to the wildness of this play. They’re a proper focused fiery family.

The Gate is a theatre renowned for its flexible, transformative space. Have you found this useful in imagining your version of this play for the stage?

Milla Clarke, our designer, is interrogating how the space can move with the play, as the form of the play asks us to. Our production sets the action in the round, on four sides, which is not something the play immediately suggests. Milla doesn’t want it to be a sit down and watch affair; we are to be active in the storytelling. The audience must shift just as much as the action does, and the staging will enhance this relationship.

Bootycandy’s sound designer, Duramaney Kamara, recently worked with the Unicorn children’s theatre, and now this is a show exploring childhood from a very adult perspective. It sounds like you may have an interesting soundscape planned too?

Yes. It is a show that spans forty years of a life, so you will hear forty years of African American music and cultural references.

Do you have plans for Bootycandy after its run at the Gate?

That will all depend on what the Gate want to do with it. I’m excited to see where the show might go!

Our thanks to Tristan for finding time to chat with us. Bootycandy plays at Gate Theatre from 13 February until 11 March. Further information and bookings can be found here.

About Mary Pollard

By her own admission Mary goes to the theatre far too much, and will watch just about anything. Her favourite musical is Matilda, which she has seen 16 times, but she’s also an Anthony Neilson and Shakespeare fan - go figure. She has a long history with Richmond Theatre, but is currently helping at Shakespeare's Globe as a steward and in the archive. She's also having fun being ET's specialist in children's theatre and puppetry, and being a Super Assessor for the Offies! Mary now insists on being called The Master having used the Covid pandemic to achieve an award winning MA in London's Theatre and Performance.