candy coated unicorns and converse all stars
Poetry Pamphlet. November 2011
Candy-Coated Unicorns & Converse All Stars is a document of transformations, the fine lines between the real and the surreal, the mundane and the extraordinary. Contemporary culture clashes with mythology as Bruce Lee angles for space alongside Prometheus, where twin towers burn and yellow hues bleed into London sunsets. Yet it is a text of conversations: the transformations that memory can inflict on the present, the clear light that today can cast on yesterdays. Through it all there is music and musicians, a language that Inua Ellams seems to be exploring, testing, riffing on.
Flap Series. Published by Flipped Eye
thirteen fairy negro tales.
Poetry Pamphlet. October 2005
The second in the ground-breaking mouthmark series, Thirteen Fairy Negro Tales is a vibrant pamphlet of contemporary poetry. In language scooped directly from a paintbrush, Inua Ellams announced his arrival on the poetry scene, with what has become a runaway bestseller. Written in language that has roots in Keats, hip hop rhymes and Shakespearean narrative, Thirteen Fairy Negro Tales has sold over 2000 copies since its release.
Mouthmark Series. Published by Flipped Eye
Audio Play. April 2017.
A retelling of a section of Homer's epic in Odysseus is a Nigerian immigrant, Ody, leader of a group of hungry and tired immigrants seeking shelter in a gutted area on the outskirts of London.
Commissioned by BBC.
Audio Play. April 2016
‘Reds go into position there, in tight formation, and prepare to engage the hostile.’ Set inside a snooker table, The Breakaway is a story of mutiny and treason where the reds, colours and white ball collide.
Commissioned by The Royal Court.
Stage Play. Sept 2015
Sebastian meets Isah, a student from the war torn, desert ravaged Norther part of Nigeria. Both study food and nutrition and a close friendship forms. After an accident late one night at the library, Isah choses to return home and Sebastian follows weeks later, prompting an incredible journey, a family reckoning and a head on collision with extremist followers of islam. Set against the backdrop of a growing global food crisis, Turned questions the risks we take for family, friendship and love in a starving world.
Commissioned by Metta Theatre.
an evening with an immigrant.
Stage Play. July 2015
Born to a Muslim father and a Christian mother in what is now considered by many to be Boko Haram territory, in 1996, award winning poet and playwright Inua Ellams left Nigeria for England aged 12, moved to Ireland for 3 years before retuning to London and starting work as a writer and graphic designer. Part of this story was documented in his hilarious autobiographical Edinburgh Fringe First award winning play, The 14th Tale, but most of it is untold. For one night only, littered with poems, stories and anecdotes, Inua will tell his ridiculous, fantastic, poignant immigrant-story of escaping fundamentalist Islam, directing an arts festival at his college in Dublin, performing solo shows at the National Theatre, and drinking wine with the Queen of England, all the while without a country to belong to or place to call home.
Supported by Soho Theatre.
Stage Play. November 2014
Jodi wants to blow up it up. His fathers wants to rent it. The council want to 'tax' and Monsoon wants to save it. In a light hearted farcical play, Reset Everything shows what happens when conflicting ideologies clash in a childhood bedroom.
Reset Everything was one of five plays developed during an innovative process of collaboration between five of the UK’s most exciting playwrights, where five interlinked short pieces that, when performed together, form a full-length play. Theatre Uncut ask leading playwrights to respond to the current political situation and then make the plays available for anyone to perform, anywhere.
Commissioned by Theatre Uncut and Oran Moor.
marsh orchids & concrete.
Stage Play. November 2014
Sophie asks Cynthia her mother a simple question 'Where does milk come from?' In attempting to answer, Cynthia takes us from her job as a communications officer in Westminster to the countryside, to the complicated lives of farmers in Devon where Jeremiah who harbours a grudge against 'townies' discusses the destructive potential of Cynthia's new policies, before an explosive meeting in the village hall. Marsh Orchids and Concrete was written as part of 'The Common' - a 90 minute production consisting of five short plays, the result of a year-long project involving five writers, China Plate Theatre Company, two North Devon rural communities and Beaford Arts.
Commissioned by Beaford Arts and China Plate Theatre Company.
fastcuts and snapshots.
Stage Play. June 2014
Winston, Emmanuel and Samuel work in a barber shop in London. Samuel and Emmanuel have a long lasting grievance relating to Samuel’s father – why was he sent to prison and who was to blame? Winston muses on the differences between Africans and Carribeans in the diaspora as a host of characters from all walks of life pass through their shop sharing stories: Ethan explores what it means to be a strong black man in the west; Muhammed boasts of his interracial-dating exploits and old Sizwe recounts his first use of electric razors in Zimbabwe.
Supported by National Theatre Studio, West Yorkshire Playhouse, The Binks Trust and British Council ZA.
The long song goodbye.
Stage Play. June 2014 (Performed by Inua Ellams)
As part of LIFT’s After a War weekender curated by Tim Etchells, Inua Ellams uses his distinctive lyrical style to recall the untold stories of World War One in Africa. Told through the fictional character of Jero, in dramatises the particular horror of the warfare in Africa and displays how this led to the first seeds of rebellion against colonialist and imperialist powers in Subsaharan Africa.
Part of LIFT 2014. Commissioned by LIFT and 14-18 NOW.
Radio Play. Aired: November 2013
Three generations of men lock horns in poet Inua Ellams’s dark animalistic tale. Ragi (Babou Ceesay) is struggling to connect to his son Zac (Chase Willoughby) who has gone from straight-A student to aggressive scrapper, and so calls upon his Nigerian chief father (Cyril Nri) for help and guidance.
However Chief Zachary’s traditional ideas jar with Ragi and Zac’s modern, British viewpoints — with disturbing results. Alongside an exploration of generational culture clashes, Ellams plays with notions of the beast that lurks within all men. It’s drama red in tooth and claw.
Commissioned by BBC Radio 4.
Stage Play. Debut: October 2013
It’s a simple idea, really.
1/ Wear a uniform. 2/ Protect who you love, what you care about. 3/ Let nothing get in your way
Someone mugged Bruce’s mum and he is not having it. The shock is still visible in her trembling fingers, rippling out across the calm waters of their lives. He grabs his hoodie, his uniform, his cape and goes out to find the culprit. Smithy wants everyone to stay inside, Uhuru wants everyone out. Tanya thinks it’s boyish fun and games until, very suddenly, it isn’t.
A Synergy and Unicorn Co-production.
Mostly like blue.
Stage Play. Debut: July 2013
Never seen anyone enter new territory like that… the way fire-truck-red invades green and changes it forever, like it owns the joint, elbows out, swinging, some mad-hatter rap-star swagger to that walk.
J’s life is dominated by a secret that nobody knows. Unheard, unseen, unimportant. Trapped in a glass box full of voices. Then T arrives in a cacophony of colour, an earthquake of energy and everything changes. Mostly Like Blue is a lyrical, boisterous new play performed by the winners of the ICT/Rosemary Branch Award for Islington’s most exciting 16 year old theatre-makers.
Commissioned by Islington Community Theatre.
black t-shirt collection
Stage Play. Debut: June 2012 (Performed by Inua Ellams)
Black t-shirt collection is story about two foster brothers building a global t-shirt brand. On their journey from Nigerian markets to nightclubs in Europe and sweatshops in China, Matthew and Muhammed discover the consequences of success.
Combining mellifluous poetry, spoken word and graphic art, Black T-shirt Collection is a passionate, searing, modern fable that draws on Inua’s own experiences of growing up in Nigeria, on its growing religious tensions and the universal longing for a place to call home.
Commissioned by Warwick Arts Centre. Supported by the Arvon Foundation, the National Theatre, Jerwood residencies & Cove Park. Originally funded by Arts Council England.
Outdoor Stage Play. Debut: June 2012 (Performed by Inua Ellams)
In a world where tower blocks are stone mountains and city walls are urban tapestries retelling epic fights, Michael keeps away from the warring tribes until a passerby helps him out of a tight situation. Instantly, he is pulled into the gang culture he has tried to escape. The city spirals out of control as battle lines are drawn but will Michael succeed in ending the war?
In rhythmic, sizzling poetry, and with a live soundtrack from drummer Aki Fujimoto and flautist Mikey Kirkpatrick, Inua Ellams conjures the violence of a city not unlike London and imagines a more beautiful world beyond it. Knight Watch was performed outside in hidden corners across the city.
Commissioned by The Albany. Funded by Arts Council England. Developed with support from the Almedia Festival.
THE ballad of Abdul hafiz
Radio Play. Debut: April 2011
"Each man holds something deep inside / that festers, drives and dwells. / Some drown it out to dull its pain / but in darkness it swells / some hide it well, it consumes some / but each needs one to tell."
Written in classic ballad poetic form, The Ballad of Abdul Hafiz tells the story of an encounter with a stranger one afternoon in Peckham, south London. What begins as a idiosyncratic encounter quickly turns into an emotional exchange that sheds further light on the human spirit.
Commissioned by BBC Radio 4
Stage Play. Debut: December 2010
The Riddler is a hilarious fifteen minute play set on the night before christmas. Two brothers take a trip to their local barbers shop and as they wait for the barber to begin, they play an old childhood game where its twists and turn tell shed light on their passions, their lives, their loves, and most importantly those they have lost.
Commissioned by Theatre 503 for Playlist: Christmas
Stage Play. Debut: September 2010 (Performed by Inua Ellams)
Untitled is a magical, lyrical story set in Nigeria and England, of identical twin boys separated at infancy. In the quarrel after the marred naming ceremony, the mother grabs the titled child and flees, leaving the unnamed brother to lead an impetuous, chaotic, blasphemous existence until the spirits of the land make their stand.
Co-commissioned by Soho Theatre, Fuel and Contact. Developed as part of Fuel at the Roundhouse and at Cove Park. Funded by Arts Council England.
Longlisted: for the Alfred Fagan Award.
The 14th Tale
Stage Play. Debut: August 2009 (Performed by Inua Ellams)
A hilarious and poetic coming-of-age story about a natural-born trouble maker, and his relationship with his father. The story follows Inua’s real life journey from his birth place in Nigeria to the culture-shock of England, charting his trials, tribulations and mischief-making along the way. Using playful rhymes, Inua weaves vivid and endearing characters, while at the same time challenging expectations of what it is to be a young black male in the UK today.
A BAC Scratch Commission with Apples and Snakes. A London Word Festival Commission. Funded by Arts Council England.
Awards: Edinburgh Fringe First.