Meet the Shortlist- babirye bukilwa

black bird
By babirye bukilwa

I’m fucking numb and feel … everything. Too much … I don’t want your love … Love has you waking up in the middle of the night in a panic … love has you feeling half … it feasts … it steals your oxygen. Invades your chest, your feet, the corners of your belly that you didn’t even know existed … Without your consent. Making you want forever. No matter the temperature. Love erupts your identity.  It makes promises to you … It’s loud… It’s violent.” 

babirye bukilwa’s blackbird is a tender and explosive insight into Eshe’s (25) moments of psychosis and how this impacts on her experiences of love and belonging.

babirye’s beautiful and poignant writing focuses on the dynamic between neglect and self-acceptance; exploring the impact our psychological well being can have on the relationship with ourselves and with those that we hold closest to us.

blackbird forces us to consider what could happen should we reach our breaking point, and who around us will care the most to take action.

 Set within her messy bedroom, the story of Eshe offers a fly-on-the-wall insight into her intimate world, going to the heart of a young Black woman’s search for a way out of a very dark place.


babirye formerly known as Vanessa Babirye is an actor, model, poet (SISTA!, THE COLOUR OF MADNESS) podcaster and a songwriter. Most recently seen returning to the National Theatre stage opposite Cate Blanchett and directed by Katie Mitchell, her notable work includes the Royal Court, the Hampstead, The Nottingham Playhouse, the Arcola, Soho, The Leicester Curve, BBC, Channel 4 and the ICA. babirye has been noted as one out of ten female creatives by the guardian Newspaper in 2018 and she co-founded the award nominated podcast ‘SISTREN’ who have caught the eyes of DR Martens, Adidas, Macy’s and even Burberry. A published poet (SISTA!, THE COLOUR OF MADNESS) babirye joined the BBC London voices writing group and was longlisted for the BBC Drama Writers room aiming to amplify the Black British working-class Queer experience.

black bird is babirye’s first play. She is eligible for the Original New Voice Award, as well as a Judges Award and the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting.


What inspired you to write this play?

The play happened in my mind first before it was on paper. My own life inspired me, my own experiences – a true life event actually. I wanted to write it down in full because of my baby cousin. I wanted them to maybe have a bit of insight into how I felt when I wrote the play. If he ever felt how I felt when I wrote black bird – I hope this would make him feel seen or understood or represented.

Can you tell us a little bit about your journey as a playwright?

black bird is my first play. I think my journey started when I did my first play about ten years ago. Luckily enough for me the writer gave feedback on the first 30 pages of this play Idea- and I got the feedback and it was not good! Since then, I’ve been seeing really good work, being amazed by and inspired by this writer. She told me to read more play, and I did!

What do you think about the anonymity of the Prize?

I think this is one of the main reasons people may be inclined to enter; you’re just being judged on what you bring. It’s purely based on the ‘art’ and what the reader feels. This allows you to have a bit more confidence your work will be judged on itself and itself alone

How do you feel about being shortlisted?

I feel really shocked actually. It feels a lot bigger than me at the moment as though I’m entering a sacred space. A gallery. like I’m a small part of a very big ship. As an actor I’m very used to being one tiny part of a bigger picture and it feels like I’m in this massive gallery of art.

Published on:
18 Oct 2019


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