Ade Solanke, Pandora’s Box

Published: Wednesday, May 2, 2012 15:05 | Interview by Sophia A Jackson
Ade Solanke Ade Solanke

Afridiziak discusses theatre and writing with British-Nigerian playwright Ade Solanke

Adeola Solanke grew up in Ladbroke Grove, west London. The mother of one is a lecturer at Goldsmiths University and teaches script writing in the media department. Ade, also a Goldsmiths graduate, has worked there for over 11 years, and has a residency at its Pinter Centre for Performance and Creative Writing. After cutting her teeth in Hollywood, where she trained as a story analyst assessing stories for organisations such as Disney and Sundance, she became interested in theatre and film.These are the two story telling mediums she is most passionate about and the roots to her company Spora Stories.

Thank you to everyone who gave me love and support, I could have stayed under the duvet, which I did, for a month but people helped me to keep going.


Ahead of its world premiere at the Arcola Theatre, we discuss Ade’s first theatre production, Pandora’s Box, which she describes as a ‘funny, entertaining, family show’.


So glad to see Pandora’s Box is finally being staged. What happened to the original proposed run?

It’s history now but we were so disappointed that we weren’t able to present the show that we planned originally at the Oval House Theatre. There was a hungry audience for the play from the bookings we had. It was awful. But looking forward, we have such a great team, fantastic producer and director, so out of that experience we have gone on to have a much stronger production. We have an equally excellent cast. I feel blessed that everything has turned out and the show is where it should be. Thank you to everyone who gave me love and support, I could have stayed under the duvet, which I did, for a month but people helped me to keep going, and they won’t be disappointed.


Pandora's Box is at the Arcola from 9-26 May 2012 Pandora's Box is at the Arcola from 9-26 May 2012

Why is the play called Pandora’s Box?

Our parents [African\Caribbean] came to England thinking they were not staying for long. My mum has all these trunks since she got here where she’s been storing things for when she does go home. Over the years she would open the boxes and give things to people who were going back home. Pandora’s Box reminds me of the experience of storing things in a box and sometimes what comes out of the box might not be expected. Originally, the myth of opening Pandora’s box brought problems to the world. Europeans going to Africa in the first place was almost like the opening of a Pandora’s box.


Pandora’s Box is a collaboration with the Jon Harris Partnership. What’s the synergy there?

Jon Harris is a theatrical producer, he ran Stratford Circus when it first opened. He’s been a Godsend and my backbone throughout this; he’s so experienced and a brilliant guy. He’s been a friend and a guide to me as I’m just starting out and he has the knowledge and experience.


So after the Arcola Theatre run are there plans to tour with Pandora’s Box or even internationally, Nigeria maybe?

I was in Ghana with the British Council earlier this year and they also sent me to a conference in Nairobi in November last year so I’ve been connecting with theatre practitioners all over the world. Pandora’s Box is getting lots of interest across the Diaspora. I would love to tour the UK too, especially Manchester and Birmingham. We plan to make this production brilliant and base that on taking the show to other places.


What themes and issues in the play relate to you personally?

The story is about British born Africans taking their children back to Africa. I didn’t do it with my son, but one of my close friends took her son to Nigeria. He was going off the rails, but after two years in Nigeria, he came back to England transformed. What do they get in Africa and the Caribbean that they don’t get here?

What do they get in Africa and the Caribbean that they don’t get here? It’s not just discipline; I think it’s a sense of heritage that they get from being there but not here.

It’s not just discipline; I think it’s a sense of heritage that they get from being there but not here. I think feeding their sense of self is where we’re failing as a society in terms of where we educated African heritage children. If you are in a country where you are not portrayed or shown as worthy how can you love yourself and therefore love others? I think not celebrating our diversity affects young people. Although the play is not based on my son, I sent him to boarding school in the UK and I had my own hopes and fears about that and my feelings about that decision are present in the play.


Nigerians in the UK are making a big impact on the theatre industry over here. What are your thoughts on this?

Nollywood has created opportunities by feeding our appetite for these stories. We in the UK are the beneficiaries of that; we’ve got a hype surrounding the lives of Nigerians now.


Cast announced for Pandora's Box Cast announced for Pandora's Box

And what are your earliest memories of theatre?

[Laughs]. I remember being about seven-years-old in Ladbroke Grove, in a community hall. A visiting theatre performed a show for the children called Give a Dog a Bone. I remember jumping up with excitement because it was such a great show, it was fun.


Who has had the most positive impact on you in terms of your passion for theatre?

Wole Soyinka and Shakespeare, they are both brothers in terms of their brilliance at theatrical story telling.


Tell us about some future projects you’ll be involved in.

Pandora’s Box is from my series of S.O.S [Save our Sons] plays and the next one is about absent fathers. This is important area for us as we need to uplift the next generation. I’m also working with Tunde Kelani the [Steven] Spielberg of Nigeria. He’s asked me to write a script for him.



Related links

Pandora’s Box is at the Arcola Theatre Tent from May 9-26, 2012
Cast announced for Ade Solanke’s Pandora’s Box
Get discounted tickets to see Pandora’s Box
Visit Ade Solanke’s website



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