Fresh off the heels of bionic playwright and screenwriter Matilda Feyiṣayọ Ibini’s astronomical success with their play ‘Sleepova’ at Bush Theatre, Matilda isn’t done there. A superstar dripping in energy and passion, Matilda reflects on their life and what’s to come.
GUAP: When did you start writing?
Matilda: It started from childhood. I used to write Scooby Doo fanfiction! That started in Primary School, and I wish I could say it ended in Secondary School, but it didn’t. But it morphed into poetry, my English teacher, Ms. Gallagher, was a positive influence and encouraged the development of my writing. I also held some uncertainties, but I knew I could find a way if Malorie Blackman, Benjamin Zephaniah, John Agard, and many other great Black British writers could find a way. After my degree, I then went on to complete Soho Theatre Writers Lab and the Royal Court ten-week course for emerging playwrights.
GUAP: You’ve made a bursary available to Soho Theatre Writers’ Lab participants. The Matilda Feyiṣayọ Ibini bursary is for people who identify as disabled. What inspired you to set this up?
Matilda: The best writers I’ve learned from have reminded me you have to pay it forward. It’s not a straightforward career to get into, so I will do anything I can to make it easier for someone else.
GUAP: How do you overcome the challenges of an inaccessible industry?
Matilda: With my condition of Muscular Dystrophy, it was important to me to have an agent that was nurturing and supportive, understanding of my limitations, and who would advocate for me. I’m still figuring things out, finding my way, and trying to understand what exactly I want to do. How do I make my goals and dreams a reality in a notoriously inaccessible industry? We must break through so many hurdles and barriers before getting to the fun stuff of being a writer and making stories.
GUAP: Your newest play Sleepova debuted at the Bush Theatre in March. How did the development come about?
Matilda: I had this idea in my first year of the Soho Theatre Writers’ Lab. During a writing exercise, I toyed with the question: why does my mum never let me or my siblings go to sleepovers? The original premise was that these characters, who we only ever meet at night, see into their dreams and nightmares. As the play evolved over the years, the story and the characters changed. Because I was changing. I was getting older and more confident in my craft; the story evolved with me, and so did those characters. I always knew it would be a play for black girls.
GUAP: What’s next for you?
Matilda: I would love to see my work touring. As my condition progresses, that may become more logistically challenging. If it ever gets to a point where I can’t get out as much as I would like, I hope my work can travel to places I can’t.
GUAP: Do you have any advice for disabled creatives trying to carve out space for themselves in the industry?
Matilda: Anything is still possible if you live with a chronic illness. Challenge everything. That’s what storytelling teaches us to do. Challenge people, challenge narratives. I’m always aware that people from Global Majority communities, especially those with chronic conditions, are often told they can’t do something without being given a chance. Challenge that.
Discover more from our Arts and Culture section here.