Talawa, the UK’s outstanding Black theatre company, is holding an evening of celebration in honour of its late co-founder Mona Hammond OBE (1931–2022). As one of the founders of Talawa Theatre Company in 1986, Hammond was instrumental in championing Black British theatre and her passion and vision were fundamental to the company’s work. Talawa will hold a private event in October in her honour to celebrate and remember her life and work. The evening will be curated by Talawa with Suzette and Sam Llewellyn and hosted by Young Vic Theatre.
Mona Hammond had prominent roles in theatre, TV and film, including playing the much-loved character Blossom Jackson in Eastenders, Aunty Susu in Desmond’s and Lady Macbeth in Peter Coe’s pioneering 1972 Black Macbeth at the Roundhouse. Hammond was appointed an OBE in the 2005 Queen’s Honours List for her distinguished theatre career and for championing Black British actors with Talawa. Hammond’s long career on stage and screen inspired countless others and continues to inspire many who will always be indebted directly or indirectly to her great body of work.
At a time when it was widely believed that Black actors could not play British classics, Hammond redefined roles such as Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest (1989) and the Fool in Talawa’s King Lear (1994). She starred in Talawa’s first ever production, The Black Jacobins, in 1986 – telling the story of Toussaint Louverture, who led the Haitian Revolution.
Hammond’s performances and work with Talawa were instrumental in pushing forward the Black theatre movement in the UK and making theatre more accessible for Black people in the UK. Hammond was 87 when she passed away, contrary to some incorrect information in the media at the time. She is survived by her only son Michael Sanders, and granddaughter Tallulah. Her life and ground-breaking career will be celebrated by invited friends and colleagues in an evening that will share memories, stories and tributes.
Michael Buffong, Artistic Director of Talawa Theatre Company, says, There is no doubt about the legacy Mona’s career has left, and tonight we witness the effect this trailblazer has on us as Black artists in the past, right now in the present and in the future.