Kwame Kwei-Armah



  • (Ian Roberts; 1966 - ) British playwright and actor. Kwei-Armah, whose parents were both natives of Grenada, grew up in Southall, Greater London. He adopted his African name at the age of 19, having traced his ancestry back through several generations of slavery to Ghana. After attending stage school Kwei-Armah initially attempted to make a career as a singer but also took acting roles and began to write. Popular fame arrived in the early 2000s, when he became known to millions as Fin Newton in the BBC hospital series Casualty and reached the final of the reality TV show Comic Relief Does Fame Academy. During this same period, however, he also served as writer in residence at the Bristol Old Vic, which had staged his first play, A Bitter Herb, in 1999.

    Kwei-Armah's emerging reputation as a playwright was sealed in 2003, when the National Theatre produced his fifth play, Elmina's Kitchen, to widespread acclaim. The play, which is set in an Afro-Caribbean restaurant in Hackney, centres on the owner's troubled relationship with his son, who is inescapably drawn into the local culture of drugs and crime. A touring version, with the author himself in the lead, opened at the Garrick Theatre in 2005 - making Kwei-Armah the first Black British writer to have a work staged in the West End. The National went on to stage Kwei-Armah's Fix Up (2004) and Statement of Regret (2007), which together with Elmira's Kitchen form a loose trilogy about contemporary Black British life. Subsequent work includes the more intimate Let There be Love (2008) and Seize the Day (2009), which explores the various pressures on a Black candidate for Mayor of London. Kwei-Armah is also well known as a broadcaster and journalist and took a leading role in establishing the National Theatre's Black Theatre Archive in 2009.