Posted: 26 September 2023

Artist Spotlight: Director, HANNA ADU-BOATENG

Next month sees the launch of the third and latest instalment from our ENDS & TALES series – audio walking adventures experienced on your mobile phone, inspired by the untold stories and histories around us. 

DUPPY HUNTER: A Locals Guide to St Pauls, Bristol, created in partnership with Trinity Community Arts, is written by Dr Edson Burton and inspired by interviews with the local people of Bristol and their memories. And the wonderful human directing this latest adventure is Hanna Adu-Boateng, who is our September Artist of the Month.

A director of Ghanaian descent, Hanna has been making theatre with diverse communities within Bristol for many years. Her work reflects her desire to explore the intersections of race, power, and gender through devised performances and contemporary texts. Hanna has a rich history in facilitating youth and community theatre with notable companies, such as Kuumba Afrikan Caribbean Arts Ltd, Bristol Old Vic, The Egg (Theatre Royal, Bath), Calling the Shots Film Company, Acta Centre, and Travelling Light Theatre. Hanna has directed staged readings for Missing Pieces theatre and been an acting tutor for Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.

What attracted you to this project?

The project came about at a time when I was seeking work with Global Majority theatre companies. I was really interested in the collaboration between Tamasha, Coney and Trinity and the concept of the ENDS & TALES genre of theatre. I liked the fact that the three organisations were looking for a director who was connected to the Global Majority heritages, especially the African Caribbean communities in St Pauls, Bristol. I came to Bristol 30 years ago to work creatively within St Pauls for an organisation called Kuumba, which empowered and developed people of African descent. Dr Edson Burton also worked there at the same time. However, an opportunity has never arisen for me to direct/dramaturg one of his plays. The project brief also aligned with my desire to delve into work, which includes interviewing members of the community to draw out personal stories connected to the rich history of St Pauls. I also was really attracted to the prospect of  developing my work with digital media and audio production, which would be a new and exciting challenge for me. 

This is your first directorial adventure in audio/digital. How has it been so far?

So far I have found it enjoyable, mostly. The role is multifaceted. I have enjoyed walking the route of the adventure, sharing ideas and collaborating with a team of people who really have passion for their work and the project. Communicating with the creative team and producers from Tamasha, Coney and Trinity I found challenging at times, as we were all involved in other work and worked remotely for most of the project. Having to ensure that all of the creative elements of the production were coming together over a six-month staggered period and maintain connected was hard. Establishing script deadlines with Edson, whereby he had to redraft the script twice and respond to feedback was stressful for him and I was not able to give the detailed feedback that I would have liked to. However, I am enjoying working with him and also with Tuyet Van Huynh (Digital Producer at Tamasha), Jake Gaule (our Sound Engineer), Courtney Beckford (our Composer) and the cast I spent time with when recording the script. They brought the script to life quickly and excellently. 

So far, I  have learned a lot about how the gaming element and audio design of the adventure works and the importance of walking the route a few times and listening to the audio draft, with a paper script in hand. 

Duppy Hunter is written by Dr Edson Burton, inspired by interviews with the local people of Bristol and their memories. How do you go about directing a piece of work that use community stories?

Directing Duppy Hunter means that you must be able to connect with and design a specific set of questions that you want to ask each interviewee, but also be flexible enough to go with the stories each person wants to tell. The memories of local people and their connection to St Pauls give authenticity to the narrative, which Edson created. It is important that the writer has confidence in you honouring his work and the local people trust and are comfortable with sharing their memories with you. I think Edson drew out a strong narrative that will relate to many of the community of St Pauls from decades gone by, but he also included poignant individual memories  of characters who have passed, which must be overseen with care and empathy. 

Why is a project like this important to Bristol – and beyond?

It is so important that Bristol and places beyond recognise and celebrate the epic contribution from the African Caribbean people from the Windrush era and onwards – how they have shaped the political landscape, history and culture of the city. 

What should someone expect to experience when they sign up for Duppy Hunter?

You should expect to have a lot of fun experiencing the narrative unfold as it transports you from one memory and place to another, through the central character of Josie, who is a duppy hunter. You will also be moving through different periods of time, encountering various people who have contributed to the racial justice and equality struggle. You will enjoy music from different decades, the singing of hymns and be moved by real people who have passed but will never be forgotten. You’ll learn a lot!

How did you get into theatre?

I developed my love of theatre through Sunday school at a Baptist Church I attended as a child. There, we would create drama and movement pieces around Biblical stories. I would then perform and direct them at primary school. After that, my dad enrolled me into the Anna Scher youth theatre in London, and in my 20’s I gained a degree in Theatre with Arts Management at Darlington College of Arts. Following that, I worked in youth and community theatre, and became a secondary school drama teacher. Over the past few years, I have been establishing myself as a professional theatre director.

Who were your creative inspirations growing up?

Growing up my creative inspirations were Alice Walker, Sade, Madonna, Boy George, Alexandra O’Neal and Earth Wind and Fire.

What’s a mantra you live by?

What is for me, will never pass me by. 

What advice would you give to someone wanting to do what you do?

Read and go to see lots of plays. Seek out a director’s whose work you admire, go to see their work, and try to establish contact with them through networking, and at after show events. After that ask if you can volunteer as an assistant director and take it from there. Mentorship is vital. 

After Duppy Hunter, what is coming up next for Hanna Adu-Boateng?

I will be working with Creative Powertown, a company that develops young people in the creative industries. It will be the first time I will be exploring the possibility of directing for television.

DUPPY HUNTER: A Local Guide to St Pauls, Bristol is available to experience 3-29 October. Book your tickets.

Produced by Tamasha in partnership with Trinity Community Arts. In association with Coney.

An ENDS & TALES presentation. ENDS & TALES is a Tamasha and Coney joint project.