After relocating to Los Angeles, writer-director Ché Walker returns to London, and the Finborough Theatre, with the European premiere of his latest stage play, Time Is Love / Tiempo es Amor, which also marks a reunion with Olivier Awards winner Sheila Atim. Find out more about his inspirations, city comparisons and Netflix success – and then get booking!
2019. In the last remaining barrios of East LA…
Blaz returns from prison, but something ain’t right. His lifelong love Havana Cortez is keeping a secret. His old partner Karl seems to know what it is. Havana’s best friend Rosa hates him even more than usual, but this was not always the case. And the detective who locked him up can’t stop with the women. Serena The Sex Worker is our ethereal guide to this menacing world – but why are there pterodactyls overhead?
Playwright and director Ché Walker returns to the Finborough Theatre, where he has directed six previous productions. Time Is Love / Tiempo es Amor has original music by Sheila Atim, an Olivier Award winner for her performance in Girl from the North Country, who also plays Rosa in the European premiere. Atim is joined in the London production by Gabriel Akuwudike, Benjamin Cawley, Cary Crankson, Sasha Frost and Jessica Ledon. Ledon also featured in the original cast in Los Angeles.
Time Is Love / Tiempo Es Amor runs from 1 to 26 January 2019 at the Finborough Theatre, 118 Finborough Road, London SW10 9ED, with performances Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7.30pm, Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3pm. Tickets are priced £16-20. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!
Talking to… Ché Walker
Writer and director Ché Walker‘s first play Been So Long premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in 1998 and has been performed worldwide. The musical adaptation played at the Young Vic and Edinburgh Festival in 2009 before being adapted into a Netflix feature film, released in October 2018, starring Michaela Coel and Arinzé Kene. His other stage plays include Flesh Wound, The Frontline, The Lightning Child, The Eighth, Lovesong and Klook’s Last Stand. He has also directed thirty-one stage productions, and has over fifty professional acting credits across stage and screen.
Been So Long started as a play in 1998, became a musical and this year, a screen hit on Netflix. What’s been the most surprising thing to you about the 20-year journey with this story?
Been So Long seems to strike a chord with each generation that reads it. I’m surprised – and delighted – that the characters, who were all based on various people I’d grown up with, seem to speak to young people in particular around the world. Everyone seems to know a Gil, Simone, Raymond – and everyone seems to be able to find themselves in the play.
Why did you relocate to Los Angeles?
I actually grew up partly in Los Angeles when I was a teenager. It’s been my lifelong dream to live there. When I was offered a job at the Stella Adler Academy in 2015, it was, as they say, a no-brainer.
Los Angeles has amazing weather, natural beauty, live music scene, the best food I’ve ever eaten, and of course, my beloved Lakers. London has public transport, incredible theatre, mixed communities, the National Health Service and, of course, my beloved marmite.
What was your inspiration for Time Is Love/Tiempo es Amor?
What if Desdemona was guilty? The first draft was written in 1999. There is a short film of it, starring two of my favourite actors, Martina Laird and Fraser James. The acting was beautiful, as you’d expect, but we had intractable sound problems so I didn’t do much with it.
The story kept popping back into my head, and when the opportunity came up in Los Angeles, I decided to dust it off and explore. Twenty years later, it became much more elegiac and sombre – but hopefully, it’s still funny as well.
What were the highlights of the Los Angeles run?
We had a very talented, hard-working cast, and I loved learning about Santeria, and the rich culture of Cuba, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, Guatemala, and hearing the many reasons people move to Los Angeles. My Spanish is not very good at all, but it slowly improved.
Why did you want to bring the play to London?
It began as a London story, then turned into a Los Angeles story. I firmly believe a story is a story. Jessica Ledon and Montana Roesch, two of the most talented young actors, were also very passionate about giving the play a longer life. (Ledon reprises her role in London, where Roesch joins the producing team.)
You have a long association with the Finborough. What’s special about this theatre?
Neil McPherson is a class act, who knows more about theatre than most.
Tell us about working with Sheila Atim – as a composer? As an actor?
I’ve been lucky to work with Sheila many times now. She always surprises me, and she never lets me down. Her exceptional and abundant talent is obvious, but I wish people could see how hard she works, to make it look effortless. As an actor, she is fearless and willing to reveal a vulnerability that few actors can reach. As a composer, she actually seems to think like an actor – she understands the moment and my voice. (Not my singing voice – which is horrible – my writing voice.)
Why should audiences come to see Time Is Love?
Because it’s fiery, sexy, sultry, funny, sad – and short.
What’s next for you after this production?
Directing Cynthia Erivo and Kevin Mambo in a one-off workshop of my musical Klook and Vinette in New York. Then directing Intra Muros by Alexis Michalik at the Park Theatre. Writing three movies. Then a nap.
Anything else you’d like to add?
My cast are the best young actors in London. And I do want to give a shout out to my four – yes, four- associate directors: Tom Sargeant, Alvaro Flores, Mo Sesay and Greta Gould. They really made a massive contribution.