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West Africa Meets West Midlands in Swim Aunty Swim

Karlina Grace-Paseda (Blessing), Sam Baker-Jones (Danny), Evelyn Duah (Ama). Photo courtesy of the Belgrade Theatre.

Swim Aunty Swim at The Belgrade B2 Stage from Monday 20 May to Saturday 1 June.


The world premiere of Swim Aunty Swim, a new play by Siana Bangura starts its run on Monday 20 May, so still time to grab your tickets. The play is directed by Madeleine Kludje and produced by The Belgrade in association with tiata fahodzi.

This is a poetic story of friendship, loss, sisterhood, motherhood, and the sublime power of water.

Fatu, played by Anni Domingo (Mansfield Park, UK Tour and the Watermill Theatre Newbury) is in search of a new life and a fresh start. Leaving London behind, she makes her way to Coventry, where she forms a friendship with fellow members of her new church, Aunty Blessing and Aunty Ama. This fiery, entertaining, and sharp-witted duo of West African women in their prime, are also navigating changes and transitions in their own lives.

Movment Director Gabrielle Nimo & Director Madeleine Kludje. Photo courtesy of the Belgrade Theatre.

What begins as light-hearted fun and a distraction from the mundane routine of life and church, becomes a ritual of healing and rebirth, after a season of grieving. On Ama’s whim, the three of them embark on a watery challenge that might just send them out of their depth.

This heartwarming and powerful new play, is where West Africa meets the West Midlands in a truly universal story that will connect with everyone.

Joining Anni Domingo is Midlands born Sam Baker-Jones (HERE, Southwark Playhouse) as ‘Danny’, also Coventry-based Evelyn Duah (A New Way to Please You & Believe What You Will, Royal Shakespeare Company) as ‘Ama’, and Karlina Grace-Paseda (Abel and Cain, Hampstead Theatre & Witness for the Prosecution, London’s County Hall) as ‘Blessing’.

Director Madeleine Kludje said, “I have been waiting to direct a play that centres older, West African women at the heart of the story and as main characters onstage. This story follows three incredible women on a journey to finding themselves at crucial moments in their lives with swimming and friendship guiding and sometimes pushing them towards healing and rebirth. This is a witty, warming and heartfelt story that we can all relate to about rediscovering who we are after difficult moments within our lives.”

Karlina Grace Paseda, Anni Domingo, Madeleine Kludje, Siana Bangura, Sarah Githuru,Gabrielle Nimo Evelyn Dua, Sam Baker Jones. Photo courtesy of the Belgrade Theatre.

Coventry local Sarah Githugu has also been announced as assistant director, as part of the Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme Intensive Residencies, which offers theatre companies funding to host a local director or theatre-maker in their organisation for a total of 12-weeks. Following her directorial debut of The High Life (Barons Court Theatre), Sarah is passionate about work that challenges societal norms and uplifts marginalised peoples.

Sarah Githugu said, “I’m really excited to be working back at Belgrade and assisting Maddi on a production that celebrates our aunties and mothers. For all they do for our community, they deserve their flowers.”

Set design by Claire Winfield, costume design by Naomi Thompson, lighting design by Ryan Joseph Stafford, sound design by Duramaney Kamara, movement direction by Gaby Nimo, dramaturgy by Chinonyerem Odimba, drama therapy by Samantha Adams, and production management by Adrian Sweeney.

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