Nathaniel Martello-White’s approach to writing plays is unusual and unpredictable. He says he writes instinctively but the results of his work are also clearly influenced by his involvement in different media. Graduating from RADA, he began acting at the Young Vic, National Theatre and RSC, and his name still resonates. Following that, he made short films and began writing. Initially he was a performance poet, playing out in black London street talk, witty, sharp, edgy and close to rap. Then he expanded his use of street language into more sophisticated scripting constructions – and became a playwright. But interestingly, he describes himself not as a writer but as an artist, an appropriate decision given his references to Picasso and Bacon and stories about visiting galleries to study the characters in paintings and throw around ideas. He explains his plays through their shapes and forms as if discussing sculptures.
The first play Martello-White wrote was “Blackta” which premiered at the Young Vic in 2012. The title fits the cast of black actors and their names, the colours of skin tones. A loaded satirical and humorous story, it has the electrifying intensity of his street poetry but layered around conversations between London youth, covering black masculinity, post-colonial syndrome and white aspiration.
In 2013, he returned to short films with “Slap” and “Black Block” then presented a new short play “Bad Breed,” as yet unproduced. A follow-up draft titled “Torn,” commissioned by the Young Vic is a play about a family of mixed race origins torn apart by its secrets. Martello-White’s works can be described as documentaries looking at the under dogs and the unseen, the pressure exerted upon the individual by an idea,force or burden and how that particular individual be it male or female responds.