Photo credit Lidia Crisafulli. Unseen, Unheard cast and Black Women Rising Founder Leanne Pero (centre). From left to right: Genesis Lynea, Adaora Anwa, Laya Lewis, Leanne, Yvonne Gidden, Denise Pitter and Carol Moses.
- A new play based on the lived experiences of Black British women and their journeys with breast cancer
- The play is presented by Theatre Peckham in association with Black Women Rising (BWR) and is set to be premiered for a limited run this April
- Black Women Rising is a pioneering cancer support project founded by The Leanne Pero Foundation, seeking to address the inequalities faced by Black women undergoing cancer treatment
Unseen Unheard is based on the lived breast cancer experiences of women from Black Women Rising. Set in real time on a normal evening, six women gather to unravel their shared experiences of the abnormality that Black women experience through their diagnosis. As one would expect, the women invite us into their world with an open and candid insight that combines honesty and humour. There is a real-world objective to staging this play. None more important than changing habits that will lead to saving lives.
The play is commissioned and funded by Gilead Sciences Ltd and will be presented by Theatre Peckham in association with Black Women Rising and will run for four performances (Thursday 27th – Saturday 29th April; Tuesday 2nd May) with a further two invitation-only performances (Wednesday 3rd and Thursday 4th May) at Theatre Peckham. Each performance will host a post-show panel discussion, which will be facilitated by award-winning community champion Leanne Pero, founder and CEO of Black Women Rising. Women with experiences of breast cancer attending will be invited to share their experiences around the topics discussed in the play, so that a report showcasing real voices can be presented to key change-makers.
Black Women Rising founder and CEO Leanne Pero comments: “For long enough the voices of Black Women going through Breast cancer have been silenced and unheard and this theatre piece will be another way to connect with our communities, bring home the importance of cancer awareness and educate health care professionals of our individual needs. This collaboration has seen our members guide the writing, direction and execution of the piece alongside a stellar creative team – our hope is that this play will give rise to much needed discussion and influence positive change and outcomes of Black women going through a Breast cancer diagnosis.”
Suzann McLean of Theatre Peckham comments: “As artistic director of Theatre Peckham it’s important to me that we use our platform to shed light on the experiences of underrepresented communities. This play is a tribute to the strength and courage of black women who have had a breast cancer diagnosis, an opportunity to amplify voices that have been historically silenced, and to spark conversations that can lead to meaningful change.”
With the aim to reach and provide access to people across all communities, the producers have chosen to make all tickets free of charge with a suggested donation of £7.50 which will be donated to Black Women Rising. Should someone wish to donate more than £7.50 the remaining amount will be split between both charities- Black Women Rising and Theatre Peckham.
Cast and creatives
- Cast: Adaora Anwa, Yvonne Gidden, Laya Lewis, Genesis Lynea, Carol Moses and Denise Pitter
- Playwright: Naomi Denny
- Directors: Simon Frederick and Suzann McLean
- Set & Costume: Emma Wee
- Sound Design and Additional Composition: Holly Khan
- Lighting Design: Pablo Fernandez Baz
Press enquiries and requests for press night tickets to
Juanita Rosenior, TGRG
Tel: 020 3375 6024
The play is commissioned and funded by Gilead Sciences Ltd.
Notes to Editors
Dates: Thursday 27th – Saturday 29th April; Tuesday 2nd – Thursday 4th May 2023. All performances start at 7.30pm
Press Night: Thursday 27 April, 7.30pm
Box Office: Tickets are available from theatrepeckham.co.uk, by calling 020 7708 5401 or simply pop into Theatre Peckham, 221 Havil Street, SE5 7SB.
Tickets: FREE, with a suggested donation of £7.50 to Black Women Rising (minus processing fees of 5.5%).
Theatre Peckham: The nearest Overground stations are Denmark Hill and Peckham Rye, each about 15 minutes walking distance. Buses connect to Elephant & Castle (12, 171), Oval (36, 436), Vauxhall (36, 436), Peckham Rye (12) and Brixton (345) stations. Bus routes that stop near the theatre are 12, 36, 171, 345 and 436.
Social media: @blackwomenrisinguk (Instagram), @BlackWomenRisingUK(Facebook), @TheatrePeckham (Twitter), @theatrepeckham (Instagram), TheatrePeckham1 (Facebook).
Inequalities in access to optimal breast cancer care are profound:
- Black women in England have been found to have poorer breast cancer survival than white women1
- Research from Cancer Research UK and NHS Digital in 2023 revealed that Black women from Caribbean and African backgrounds are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer at later stages (3 or 4), when treatment is less likely to be successful1
- Black women are more likely than White women to be diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), an aggressive form of the disease with the fewest treatment options.2 Black women are 28% more likely to die from TNBC than White women with the same diagnosis, and are also less likely to be treated with surgery and chemotherapy3
- Data from Black Women Rising’s 100 Women Survey, the purpose of which was to look at the potential inequalities for women of colour being diagnosed with breast cancer, revealed that:4
- Four in ten (41%) of those who lost their hair reported that they were not offered a free wig and over three quarters (78%) of those reported that there was no suitable option for them
- 74% of those who use a softie, prosthetic breast or nipple were not offered one to match their skin tone
- Only 31% of respondents were able to find women of colour to relate to once diagnosed
- 96% of respondents reported that they do not see women of colour represented enough in the media talking about breast cancer
- The Cancer Patient Experience Survey (CPES) responses in England have consistently shown that people from minority ethnic groups overall report a poorer experience of cancer services than White British people5
- The Race Equality Foundation concluded that Healthcare Providers have a poor understanding of the needs of Black and minority ethnic communities and more needs to be done to address a lack of cultural competence education for health providers6
Unseen Unheard: The untold breast cancer stories of Black women in the UK aims to:
- Empower Black women to have informed conversations about cancer with their community and their healthcare professionals
- Improve understanding among other communities (policy, healthcare professionals, media, other Patient Advocacy Groups) on the experience and needs of Black women living through breast cancer
- Raise awareness at a societal level of inequitable treatment and inequalities of care in breast cancer and by association, other cancers affecting the Black community
Naomi Denny is an English & Bajan writer and actress from Brighton. She was a part of Soho Theatre Writers’ Lab 2019-2020, and is the first recipient of Tamasha Theatre Company’s artist mentorship programme. Naomi’s first play Essentially Black was selected for Soho Theatre’s Soho Rising 2022 after a 4* sold out run at Camden Fringe & Camden Peoples Theatre, and her second play All The Happy Things was shortlisted for the Tony Craze Award 2020 before being selected for Theatre503’s Summer Season 2022. Naomi’s narrative podcast The Waters Of Lethe was shortlisted for Soho Theatre & NBC’s Overheard podcast competition and is currently in development, and she is also developing her latest play Sunrise Madelines after a scratch version was performed as a part of Omnibus Theatre’s Engine Room. Naomi has also written for Rikki Beadle-Blair’s anthologies Lit and Fierce and is a recipient of an Arts Council England DYCP award.
Performer – Theatre credits: Maryland (Royal Court), All The Happy Things (Theatre503), Selected Recordings Of Us (The Space), Essentially Black (Soho Theatre), Paper Straws (VAULT Festival 2020 – Vault Origins Award.
Performer – Television and film credits: Dreamland (Sky), Gateways Grind (Jackdaw Productions), The Sticksman Record (4Deuce Productions), Let’s Dance Again (Met Film School), Still Not Getting It (Girl Code Theatre), Misnomer (Aella Jordan-Edge), and Currys Christmas Advert 2020.
Simon Frederick is a highly respected, self-taught artist, photographer, filmmaker and broadcaster, honored to be included in the U.K’s 100 most Influential Black People list. He has created, produced and directed multiple award-winning television series, such as “Black Is The New Black”, “They’ve Gotta Have Us” and THEOUTSIDERS? His portraits in the National Portrait Gallery made history, as the largest addition of African-Caribbean sitters ever added to the gallery’s permanent collection. Additionally, Simon was the Co-host and lead judge in front of camera in Sky’s “Master of Photography” and his screenplay was recently picked up for development with plans to shoot the movie by the end of 2023, marking his debut feature film.
Suzann McLean is an award-winning actress and director, winner of the Black British Business Award Arts and Media Senior Leader Award and Winner of British Arrows Gold Award for her performance in the BUPA surviving Cancer commercial. Directing credits include SUNNY SIDE UP (Offie nominated Best Director), SCROOGELICIOUS, MEN-TALL, THE WONDERFUL, EXTREMISM, SOUTH CRONG, JACK AND THE BEANSTALK, SOUL LYRICAL, ROBIN HOOD (Theatre Peckham), DRIVING MISS DAISY (York Theatre Royal), CATCHER, THIS CHILD (Pilot Theatre), REBELLION (Hackney Empire). Acting credits include THERE SHE GOES Special, GOD’S SPY, PENNYWORTH, GOOD OMENS, THE HONOURABLE WOMAN, DR. WHO, LITTLE MISS JOCELYN and MEASURE FOR MEASURE (National Theatre). Suzann trained in Acting at Italia Conti Academy, is the founder of Young and Talented School of Stage and Screen and has an MA from Middlesex University in Directing and Producing theatre for social change.
About Theatre Peckham
Theatre Peckham is a multi-award-winning cultural venue for artistic excellence and social change founded in 1986. Through the power of theatre, they illuminate young voices, provide skills and opportunities, and platform excellent creatives by programming and producing shows focusing on young people and under-represented voices. Theatre Peckham’s awards include the 2022 OFFIE Special Recognition Award for exceptional work; platforming cutting edge productions that push the boundaries of form, use exciting ways to retell existing and imagine new stories, and engage with hyper-local audiences. Patrons of Theatre Peckham are Jenny Agutter OBE, John Boyega and Paulette Randall MBE.
About Black Women Rising
Established in 2019 by award winning community champion Leanne Pero after her own battle with breast cancer at just 30 years old, The Leanne Pero Foundation aims to address the gaps in care for People of Colour (POC) with cancer. After her own battle with the disease, Leanne realised that mainstream cancer services were not inclusive enough and did not provide adequate support tailored to the black and ethnic community. Similarly, the community were not engaging with medical services to gather the much-needed data to make the changes.
At the centre of the charity is The Black Women Rising project which has achieved so much in its short lifetime from the UK’s first all-Black cancer portrait exhibition, a popular podcast series “Untold Cancer Stories”, brand awareness collaborations with PrettyLittleThing, Stella McCartney, Estée Lauder to name just a few, and the first of its kind publication Black Women Rising: The Magazine – now on its second edition.
The heart of the project lies in its monthly peer-to-peer support groups which have grown from the original in person event in South East London to five different online groups which support different sections of the Black community (under 40s, over 41s, newly diagnosed, living with cancer and family and loved ones).
The mission at Black Women Rising is to educate, inspire and bring opportunities for women from the Black community, to connect with one another and share their stories, without fear or shame.
Empowered women empower women.
About Gilead Sciences
Gilead Sciences, Inc. is a biopharmaceutical company that supports community organisations across the globe that address stigma, discrimination, and other barriers to wellbeing.
The company works to expand health equity around the world through programmes that promote health system sustainability, strengthen infrastructure, and provide education and financial support.
Gilead’s passion for creating a better and healthier world drives it to be a responsible corporate partner.
Inclusion is a core value at Gilead, who recognise that not everyone with cancer has the same choices, opportunities or experiences.
- Fry A, White B, Nagarwalla D, et al. Relationship between ethnicity and stage at diagnosis in England: a national analysis of six cancer sites. BMJ Open 2023. Available at: https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/13/1/e062079. Last accessed March 2023
- Triple negative breast cancer. Breast Cancer Now. Available at: https://breastcancernow.org/information-support/facing-breast-cancer/diagnosed-breast-cancer/primary-breast-cancer/triple-negative-breast-cancer Last accessed March 2023
- Cho B, Han Y, Lian M et al. Evaluation of Racial/Ethnic Differences in Treatment and Mortality Among Women with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer. JAMA Oncol. 2021 Jul; 7 (7):1-8
- The 100 Women Survey. Black Women Rising. Available at: https://www.blackwomenrisinguk.org/100-women-survey Last accessed March 2023
- Cancer Patient Experience Survey. Macmillan Cancer Support. Available at: Cancer Patient Experience Survey – Macmillan Cancer Support Last accessed March 2023
- Cancer and black and minority ethnic communities. Race Equality Foundation. Available at https://raceequalityfoundation.org.uk/health-and-care/cancer-and-black-and-minority-ethnic-communities/ Last accessed March 2023