July 19th, 2016

‘NZINGABETH! Or When Ana Met Virginia’ is a provocative, thoughtful new playfrom Taunton-based arts and education initiatives Storytree and The Bluebirds, and Exeter-based Four of Swords. It portrays a fictitious, musical meeting between Elizabeth I of England and the proud African Queen Ana Nzinga. It poses crucial questions on race, gender and politics, but is also designed as a treat for the senses; expect wig-swapping, sumptuous costumes and great music.

Sasha Herriman from The Bluebirds is producing the show, and also plays Elizabeth I. She devised the idea for NZINGABETH! from an Elizabethan Cabaret show. She explains: “I was doing Tudor cabaret when I discovered the story of Nzinga. I instantly knew I wanted to put her and Elizabeth together. I was fascinated by the fact that in both Europe and Africa, women were able to take the reins of power against all odds.”

Gloria Lawrence, whose company Storytree has taken her into schools across the south-west as a singer and story-teller, is playing Nzinga. “As a British-born black woman,” says Gloria, “growing up I never knew black history existed! With this play, I can redress the balance. I want to show there are many black role models through history: not only as slaves and victims in chains, but as strong, intelligent leaders.”

Elizabeth is an historical figure who needs little introduction in this country, but Ana Nzinga is less well known. She was an incredibly interesting character who successfully played Dutch and Portuguese colonial powers off against each other, and, much like the ‘Mother of Dragons’ in TV’s Game of Thrones, led an army of freed slaves.

The director of the production is Philip Kingslan John, co-founder of Exeter-based Four of Swords, which specialises in multimedia adaptations of classical stories. “I was excited by the chance to write and direct something entirely original, and also incredibly relevant to today. NZINGABETH! is all about the kind of conflicts we are feeling in this post-BREXIT time of elevated tensions.”

NZINGABETH! is supported by funding from Arts Council England. It is being performed at a range of venues across the South West. For more information, see the website For interviews please contact Sasha Herriman on 07770 933681 ( or Philip Kingslan John on 07584 222659 (


Sasha Herriman runs music-theatre company The Bluebirds. In 2014 she masterminded Arts Council funded family musical Mrs Noah and the Flood.

Gloria Lawrence is a Somerset singer, story-teller and educator. With her company Storytree she delivers workshops to schools and colleges. She also performs a regular Bob Marley tribute called Missy Marley.

Philip Kingslan John is one half of successful Exeter-based Four of Swords Theatre. Earlier this year, Four of Swords was nominated for best arts organisation in the city by Exeter Living Awards.

Elizabeth I (1558 – 1603) brought stability to England at a time of religious turmoil, and led her country into a prosperous Golden Age.

Queen Anna Nzinga (c. 1583 –1663) was queen of the Ndongo and Matamba Kingdoms of the Mbundu people in Angola. She came to power as an ambassador after demonstrating a proclivity to tactfully diffuse foreign crisis, as she regained control of the Portuguese fortress of Ambaca. She assumed the powers of ruling in Ndongo after the suicide of her brother. Today, she is remembered in Angola for her political and diplomatic acumen, as well as her brilliant military tactics. A major street in Luanda is named after her, and a statue of her was placed in Kinaxixi on a square in 2002, dedicated by President Santos to celebrate the 27th anniversary of independence.

Mrs Noah and The Flood
April 22nd, 2015

The Bluebirds Present Mrs Noah and The Flood – here’s the poster for the show coming to The Brewhouse on June 6th at 2.30pm. Bring the family and enjoy a great afternoon with a show and music and mask making workshops. Book tickets with The Brewhouse box office on 01823 283 244 or online at



Berlin Cabaret
April 22nd, 2015

We’ve had a great run of shows with Take Art in Somerset this spring. Thank you for your support!

Next showings of Berlin Cabaret are: Friday 26th June at St John’s, Meeting House Lane, London SE15 and on Friday 3rd July for the Somerton Music Festival in Somerton, Somerset.

The Bluebirds will also be performing a cabaret slot in Taunton Live on the 21st of July. More details to follow soon.