Interview with Kareem Parkins-Brown of Talawa Firsts on Tour’s Bougie Lanre’s Boulangerie

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A woman and a man sit at a candlelit table with wine glasses, looking slightly surprised and concerned. A waiter holding a notepad and wearing an apron stands behind them, looking upward with a pondering expression. The background is a deep blue.
Bougie Lanre’s Boulangerie

Talawa Firsts is Talawa’s annual programme celebrating new and emerging Black theatre such as Bougie Lanre's Boulangerie. BLB is an existential poetry talk show that draws from Kareem Parkins-Brown's experiences in the hospitality industry... Service!


1. Hi Kareem, could you talk us through how Bougie Lanre’s Boulangerie came to be?

I was always writing at work. Sometimes general reflections on life, not even kitchen work. Sometimes it was a direct response to things that happened on shift. Then sometimes I was trying to tie both sides in to speak about something “bigger”. Originally it was half art exhibit half poetry show because as well as journaling I made visual art using goat’s cheese for clouds or butter for hills etc. Eventually, I looked back on everything and thought “there’s something here”

A person in a white shirt and bandana stands behind a table on a dimly lit stage, thoughtfully touching their chin. The table has some plants and small jars on it. The background is dark with a subtle purple and green hue.
Talawa Firsts

The show is described as ‘fizzing whirlwind’ how have you found infusing comedy into the mix?

If you aren’t structured in a kitchen it all falls apart, and we see that happen in the show. On the other hand, you meet kitchens like Bougie Lanre’s all the time (it’s based on a kitchen inside a theatre venue) so it felt very natural to infuse comedy in with the story. The funny parts felt natural and organic to include because otherwise the show would be nothing but tension.

What have Philip J Morris (Director) and Lo-Wu (music) brought to the production? Anything you hadn’t anticipated?

Both Philip J Morris @philipjmorris and Lo-Wu @LowuSounds brought an unexpected amount of fun to the world of BLB. A realistic sense of magic. I say magic because we’re turning things into other things. I say realistic because we’re only so capable with our hands. They highlighted how similar to cheffing the whole process is. We’re turning ingredients into other things: they helped turn a fridge into a train carriage (along with Catja on lighting and Yami on movement) or turn a cleaning cupboard and a mop into a recording studio (figuratively and literally), they taught me to keep playing with the elements of the show. How a mop goes!

What’s it been like working with Talawa Theatre Company?

Working with Talawa has been a dream. There’s been enough structure and freedom. There’s no pressure to write a certain type of show or include certain themes, it was whatever I wanted so long as it made sense. Their dramaturgical assistance really lifted the piece into a new realm which really brought more of the show out: like doing a carrot 5 ways, you’ll find new appreciation for the carrot each way you prepare it.

A person wearing a white T-shirt and a head wrap stands with eyes closed and hand raised, immersed in a moment under dramatic lighting. The background is dark and slightly smoky, creating a focused and contemplative atmosphere.
Talawa Firsts UK Tour

What is interesting you in the UK cultural scene right now? What’s caught your attention?

Haha, I’m currently obsessed with the 300th resurgence of Grime. Rinse FM, Pyro Radio, Mode FM, Travs Presents, Da Metal Messiah have all been pushing or archiving grime culture which is the last authentic movement to come out of the UK for a while. Like Poetry, everybody comes out and debates whether it’s dead in news articles or comment sections. I never stopped listening. It’s nice to know a community doesn’t have to be massive to thrive in a world obsessed with numbers.

Learn more about Talawa Firsts on Tour & Kareem Parkins-Brown.