Munotida Chinyanga is creative director of an immersive dining and theatre experience celebrating black history, which is set in a fictional Harlem nightclub in 1974. She tells Giverny Masso why she would love to see more design-led shows…
What is Supper Freak about?
It’s an immersive dining experience, which we’ve written a script for. It celebrates 1970s and 1980s soul and funk music. The story is based on two young women who are trying to break into an exclusive club called Little Paradise. It’s set in 1974 in New York, at the peak of activism. We wanted to look at how music was really positive and helped during this time. We have dance classes, dance competitions, and best-dressed competitions that happen throughout the show – it’s a packed experience.
How did you get into directing and sound design?
I studied theatre arts at Middlesex University, which was a really collaborative course. I spent a lot of time understanding practical things such as PR and how venues work, and focused on directing. During the second year, I looked at sound design and how that feeds into direction. I did a master’s in international collaboration and sound. I also do festivals and sonic art with the National Theatre of Rome, looking at how design can lead performance instead of supporting performance.
Would you like to see more design-led shows?
Yes. I feel, especially in the UK, there’s a hierarchy in theatre, starting with the writer, then the director, then under that is the set designer who serves the director’s vision. I would like to see something more fluid.
What theatre projects are you particularly proud of?
I did a show called Gilgamesh, which is an epic poem and one of the first pieces of literature written in history. That was a co-direction with the Italian director Simone Giustinelli, and it looks at the idea of contemporary epics. I feel that, especially now, only plays from the canon are being produced and we want to create contemporary epics. We call these contepics – epic poems that feature across several languages and cultures. I’m currently on the directors’ programme at the Young Vic, so I’m there most of the time doing workshops and being mentored. I worked on Winter with John Wilkinson there. As a sound designer, I just finished Ali and Dahlia by Tariq Jordan at the Pleasance and I also work at St Charles sixth form in Ladbroke Grove, where I teach drama and theatre studies.
What career challenges have you faced?
Being black and a woman, and working class, most of the time I’m given plays about people in council estates and I just want to do really metaphoric, poetic things that take me away from that.
Training: BA and MA in theatre arts at Middlesex University (2014-17) and (2017-18)
First professional role: Assistant director of Winter at the Young Vic (2018)
Supper Freak runs at Bloomsbury Ballroom in London on May 2 and May 5, with further dates to be announced. For more information go to: offcast.co.uk/supperfreak