An Interview with Inua Ellams, creator of The 14th Tale

Poet, playwright, performer, as well as a graphic designer of note (just look at his website), Inua Ellams is a force to be reckoned with. This is his third time here at Bristol Old Vic and this time he brings The 14th Tale to our Basement as part of Fuelfest. We interviewed him to find out more about his work and what he does…


What’s your show about?
It is about a natural born trouble maker, the natural order of things and a long line of mischief makers. It is also about running away from things, nuns, bullies, police officers and rugby players on mopeds. It also finally about understating that you gotta stand still sometimes.

Describe it in three words.
Mellifluous, Funny, Energetic.

Do you use projection or set to help you tell the story?
I use one chair and one torchlight. That’s it.

Where does the inspiration for your stories come from?
Images. I start with a  single image and chase it down the rabbit hole, across iPhones, napkins, the back of my palms, my pillows, down alleys, dark hallways, through twilights, into dawns and finally onto a blank page where some semblance of sense begins to take form.

What drives you to do what you do?
Beauty and truth, just as John Keats says. I am obsessed with creating things that are beautiful, if not in the actual worlds, then in delivery and execution and ‘truth telling’ is what poetry is all about – holding a mirror to humanity (not a photograph, for even to take one is to edit out the rest of the world and thus present a version of the truth) and say ‘this is who you are’.

What is your ideal audience member like?
The one thing I have learnt in touring and working over the last decade is never to guess at what a person might be like. I performed my last play in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere and an old english gentleman, neck tie, tweed and all, walked up to me and spoke rapidly and fluently in my father’s language. This is a language I don’t even understand. He probably knows more about my grandmother’s culture than I do. The only thing I wish from an audience member is the ability to sit and listen.

What’s next for the show and for you?
There will be one more date in Newcastle in May, and I am working on three plays at the moment and trying to write more poetry.

Inua Ellams will be at Bristol Old Vic as part of Fuelfest 19-22 March. You can find out more here and watch the trailer below.



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