We chat to Alfred Enoch about his role as Dramaturg for Shades of Blue ahead of its première at Sadler's Wells in May.
How did you first start working with Matsena Productions?
I first met Anthony back in 2019, during the workshop for a play called Tree which was a co-production between the Young Vic and MIF (Manchester International Festival). Anthony and I were both in the cast and we became friends. It was an interesting process in the play for a lot of reasons but not least because it had a mixed cast of dancers and actors. I think we had five dancers and six actors. There was a lot of movement - it was sort of blending text and movement and I was entranced by the work of the dancers.
Anthony explained that he was he was coming to the end of his Young Associates Programme with Sadler's Wells and he invited me along to see the work he had produced. I was blown away! He asked if I'd come along to the studio and play with some ideas and concepts and it took off from there.
What is your role within the team and how does that inform the work?
I suppose my responsibility is to help shape the narrative and guide it: a sort of narrative consultant in some ways. It gives the team an external pair of eyes to work out 'what is it that we're trying to do?' and 'is this the most effective way of doing that?'. I try to help shape what we make by asking those questions. Anthony explained that they were trying to bring different creative traditions together on the work. As an actor my background is primarily text based. Kel (Matsena) and Charlie (Layburn) both trained as actors, so I'm by no means the only person coming from that side of things, but we have a nice mix of disciplines, styles and perspectives in the creative team, which is great.
Has the process for SOB been exciting?
It's been great. We've spent the last year doing the R&D workshops and developing the work. I was kind of thrilled by the whole process because I'm seeing Kel and Anthony work with such freedom and openness. I think that comes from having made so much work - they're sort of extraordinarily productive and proactive.
I suppose as an actor, I'm used to being introduced to the process when there's much less time. That's one of the nice things about doing R&D, there is a culture of exploration, a sort of freedom that, for example: 'we found something interesting this morning, let's just go with that for the afternoon and build on it'. I found it really exciting. I think it's freeing because you leave yourself open to discover new things and to change direction. I think that's something Anthony and Kel do brilliantly is to sort of maintain that creative flexibility.
What main themes does Shades of Blue confront?
I guess, part of me has a little aversion to speaking to directly about themes because I don't want to tell people what to think or look for. I think one of the exciting things about engaging with any piece of work is your autonomy as a viewer, listener, reader - you know, it's not a monolith, right? It exists in dialogue with you, the person watching, reading or listening to it. The work deals with all sorts of issues that I think are both universal and relevant to today.
I feel that's my job: to make sure the piece speaks for itself, so people could come in having not read anything, engage with the work take lots of things from it.