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DRC: Benedict Lombe, winner of Susan Smith Blackburn Award 2022

Benedict Lombe, a Congolese-born writer and playwright living in England, made history on April 11. With her play “Lava” dealing with “black” identity and the diaspora, she became the first African woman to win the Susan Smith Blackburn Award in 44 years of existence. But who exactly is this playwright?

Born in Goma in the DRC, Benedict Lombe has lived in England for years. She won the Susan Smith Blackburn Award, a writing award for women playwrights writing for English-language theatre. She became the first playwright to receive this prize for her first play, since this Award was established in 1978. She won this Award over 9 other candidates and among 160 initially nominated plays.

With a degree in “International Exchange, Media Marketing and Promotion, and Business Entrepreneurship” from Ryerson University in 2012 and a Bachelor of Arts in Scriptwriting for Film and Television from Bournemouth University in 2013, she worked in several theater companies as a scriptwriter. From 2012 to 2013, she worked at Rat’s Nest theatre company as a scriptwriter. After receiving the Bournemouth University Alumni Project Award in 2013, she co-wrote an original play about human rights with a traveling production team.

After several experiences in marketing from 2013 to 2019, notably within several companies, she worked as a playwright from 2019 to 2021 for Theatre503 Limited. In parallel, she also worked as a playwright for Bush Theatre, the company that commissioned the play, “Lava”, which allowed her to win the Susan Smith Blackburn Award. The play was first performed in August 2021.

Committed to « black » identity and diaspora

Benedict Lombe is known for her highly engaging style of writing about « black » identity and diaspora, and for her humane and humorous writing.  Her play “Lava” is a memoir monologue that addresses the issue of « black » identity and diaspora. It is performed by the Nigerian-born actress Ronke Adékoluejo and produced by Anthony Simpson-Pike. The play tells the story of a young woman from the DRC who travels to London through post-apartheid South Africa. One day, the young woman receives a letter from the British Passport Office, the contents and mystery of which she must discover.

The playwright is also the recipient of other awards and honors. She won the “Book and Words” selection of the Black British theatre Award in 2021. She also won the « Best Performance Piece Off West-End Award ». She was also nominated for the Alfred Fagon Award and was shortlisted for her digital work as part of the “Papatongo Playwriting Award” written for the Bush Theater as part of the “Isolated but open” series.

The playwright is currently communications Director of the International Children’s Rights Network, a position she has held since 2020.