We wanted to represent queer characters you rarely get to see says Hot Orange co-writer Tatenda

Yasmin Twomey and Tatenda Naomi Matsvai rehearse for Hot Orange

Hot Orange is an immersive coming of age story about love, identity and forgiveness from Half Moon – the UK’s leading small-scale young people’s venue and touring company and winner of two Off West End Theatre Awards for Best Production for Young People Age 13+. 

Written by Amal Khalidi and Tatenda Naomi Matsvai, it follows Amina and Tandeki who meet across the divide of a scorched basketball court and over that summer become inseparable friends.

When they meet a decade later, they must confront the complexities of their friendship, shaped by religion and society, and untangle themselves from what they’ve learnt to affirm who they truly are and express what they truly need.

Tatenda says: “The characters are reflections of our younger selves, brought up in very culturally specific contexts in religious households, navigating who we are outside of those spaces in relation to our queerness.

“We had to learn to take space, to love ourselves, to forgive each other and to understand that we have nothing to prove. We wanted to represent queer characters we rarely get to see. People who were joyful and not tragic, yet also real and messy.

You can say it’s also a slight love letter to the diverse community of South London and how beautiful it can be in summertime.”

Inspiration for the show came from the memories that Amal and Tatenda shared about their early interactions with relationships.

“We imagined a Disney princess and prince on a basketball court watching older people navigate relationships. We thought about what it looked like for queer young people, when they wanted to be the prince, but could also be the princess. How do you look back at that first crush without shame?”

Tatenda says she and Amal were lucky to be paired together when taking part in a 2021 art form development programme with show producers Half Moon called Narratives of Empathy and Resilience, alongside a talented cohort of writers, directors, designers and composers. The programme’s aim was to create stories that reflect our diverse community, as well as support under-represented artists in developing their practice.

 

They wrote an initial, much shorter, version of the play. Then, over the next 18 months, following numerous Zoom co-writing sessions, endless Google Doc drafts, frequent meetings with Chris Elwell, the director of Half Moon and Hot Orange, and a couple of development sessions, the script was expanded and fine-tuned into the final performance script.

Tatenda says: “It was a crazy cool period and a very new process for both of us, co-writing and being commissioned for the first time in our lives to write a full-length piece.

“I feel like the characters are reflections of our younger selves, brought up in very culturally specific contexts in religious households, navigating who we are outside of those spaces in relation to our queerness. We had to learn to take space, to love ourselves, to forgive each other and to understand that we have nothing to prove. I think the characters get there in the end.”

Tatenda describes the show as punchy, playful and tender. Audiences can look forward to poetry, banging beats and energy. After the show, she and Amal would like audiences to be filled with love, hope and joy.

Chris says Hot Orange is a compelling and exhilarating piece of new writing for young audiences that explores prejudice and the pain of navigating what love means in 2023.

He adds: “It examines the tension between your own desire and the expectations of family and community; how their values shape your identity and the distress this can cause. The immersive style of the production allows audiences to become an integral part of the action and witness the coming-of-age story up close.”

Hot Orange is here 7.30pm, Thursday 16 November. It’s 60 minutes long, with a 15-minute Q+A session with the cast straight after. Visit the What’s On section of our website to see all our shows.

Our autumn term of dance, drama, music, and fitness classes have begun. There’s still time to sign-up. Our friendly front of house team are happy to answer any questions. Give them a call on 01603 283382 or email info@thegarage.org.uk.

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