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> > Clive Essame

I have lived with an impairment since birth. I have worked with people who are disadvantaged for one reason or another for many years and have been a professional writer and workshop leader since the early 1990s. I worked with South African actor and writer Ellis Pearson to create my first play Impisi – about disability and identity; and Devon based writer Judith Maitland on Mbali – about mental ill health.

Adapting a play script for different settings

9 February 2016


Photograph of a three children taking part in a drama workshop based on Clive Essame's play, Impisi

My play Impisi was originally written as a two-hander and was created for specific actors, Ellis Pearson and Bheki Mkwane. These two South Africans were very accomplished physical actors, one was trained at École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq  and both of them had worked together for many years, in many countries including the UK at the Tricycle Theatre in London. Early on in the production process Bheki had to drop out because he was engaged to work...

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Is disability art just for disabled people?

1 February 2016


A group of disabled actors, some of whom are in wheelchairs on stage performing Clive Essame's Impisi

When I originally wrote my play Impisi my intention was for it to be performed by actors – both professional and amateur, both disabled and not – and for audiences made up of the general public. The play encourages us to look at some of the issues around disability while being entertained at the same time. But I have found that most interest in performing the play has come from organisations for disabled people. Is this preaching to the converted? If so does it matter? If a...

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On being a writer

11 January 2016


A photograph of the cast and crew of CEDA's production of Clive Essame's play, Impisi. It shows many actors in wheelchairs and others standing on a theatre set.

Being a writer is a hard business.  “I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.” —Harper Lee But it is only the start of being a writer who produces work that is read, seen or heard. To achieve that a writer now needs to be a social media expert or a public speaker; a workshop leader; a teacher or a marketer; a director or an actor; and those things can be hard.  The actual writing...

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The best place to write a play!

22 December 2015


A photograph of a performance of Clive Essame's Impisi in Grahamstown in South Africa featuring performers Sdumo Mtshali and Ellis Pearson

There can be few places that can be better to write a play script than on the beach in Durban, South Africa! Having been so impressed by the work of South African actor/writer Ellis Pearson, and made a plan to tell the story I wanted to tell about disability and ‘difference’, I went home. I raised enough money from commercial sponsorship through a family member to return to South Africa, and write the play. I was writing with Ellis, who has no direct experience of disability, and he...

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Writer Clive Essame, creates innovative theatre inspired by the sounds and sights of the African bush.

11 December 2015


watercolour illustration of a lion's face

People of all ages ask me why I have written two plays; Impisi is about disability and Mbali is about mental ill-health; using African wild animals as the main characters – good question!   It all started in South Africa a few years ago when I was taken to see a performance by two amazing actors in a school hall in front of over 100 young pupils. They were telling the story of poor people who were displaced by wealthy property developers after the tsunami of 2004 – the main...

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