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Playwright Abraham Adeyemi: ‘Working with Jude Law was such a beautiful, serendipitous moment’

Abraham Adeyemi. Photo: Folaju Oyegbesan Abraham Adeyemi. Photo: Folaju Oyegbesan

Abraham Adeyemi has taken part in the Royal Court Young Writers Programme and was the winner of the 2017 Enter Stage Write playwriting competition in Birmingham. He tells Giverny Masso about the challenges he has faced and how he came to write a short play that starred Jude Law…

Why did you become a writer?

I got into writing in 2011. My life was going in a different direction, I was studying international politics and I was on my way into law or finance. I changed my mind during my second year. I woke up one day feeling really unhappy. I was thinking about how time was running out and there were so many things I wanted to do with my life. With law and finance I knew I wouldn’t have room for anything else. I’ve always enjoyed writing – though I had no idea what I was going to write. I decided to do a creative writing degree, but I wanted to do it on my terms, so I went to Birkbeck and did a part-time course, although I still don’t believe you need a degree to write.

How did you end up writing a play that starred Jude Law?

I was asked by the Lyric Hammersmith in London to write a short play. I was told “the actors will be pre-selected, it will be one of our young actors and Jude Law”. I screamed, as he’s one of my favourite actors. Then I bumped into him in Soho after I’d just been at a bottomless brunch with some mates – and one of them was like: “Look it’s Jude Law.” I went up and said: “Hi, my name’s Abe and I’m writing something you’re going to be in”. He was really excited – it was such a beautiful, serendipitous moment.

What was it like winning the Enter Stage Write competition?

I entered the competition with The Cage, which is about two brothers growing up on a south east London estate. When I found out I was in the final, at first I wasn’t sure if I could afford to take a day off work and go to Birmingham. But then I thought: ‘I’m never guaranteed to see my work performed – I have to make the most of these moments’. I was shocked. I didn’t expect to win and I was grateful, because it’s a play that means so much to me.

You have also set up a production company – tell me about this…

I set up Creative Blue Balls in 2015. It came from a place of frustration because I was not getting opportunities, so I used it as a way to put myself out there. The time will come when I no longer need it, but in the future I want to use it for other talented writers.

What has been your biggest career challenge?

My biggest challenge is a personal one – I was homeless for a year, not in terms of sleeping on the street, but staying on friends’ couches. It was hard to keep wanting to write, when I didn’t have the stability. Having come from a single-parent, working-class background, the other issue is how difficult it can be to get writing opportunities. There needs to be more consideration in the industry for people who have started behind others because of their background. I balance writing with three jobs, and all my friends think I’m insane. Also, as someone who believes in God, that’s been a massive thing for me, and that belief has kept me writing.

CV: Abraham Adeyemi

Training: Creative writing at Birkbeck University, London (2011-15); Royal Court Young Writers Programme (2017)
First professional role: Writing film treatments for director Mo Ali (2011)
Agent: None

Transition Stage Company’s 2018 Enter Stage Write competition will take place on December 1 at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

Playwrights Vinay Patel and Chino Odimba commissioned for all-female theatre project

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