Nigerian-British Playwright Wins Award for Drama Portraying Struggles of Young Black Women

Matilda Feyisayo Ibini's Olivier play "Sleepova" follows the challenges faced by young Black women growing up.

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Nigerian-British Playwright Wins Award for "Sleepova," Hits Olney Theatre Stage
Matilda Feyiṣayo Ibini (Photo Helen-Murray)

Matilda Feyisayo Ibini, a Nigerian-British playwright and screenwriter, has won the prestigious Unusual Rigging Award for Outstanding Achievement in Affiliate Theatre at the Olivier Awards for her play “Sleepova.”

The play, which premiered at the Bush Theatre in London in 2023 to critical acclaim, is a funny and moving coming-of-age story that follows a group of young Black women navigating the challenges of growing up.

Nigerian-British Playwright Wins Award for "Sleepova," Hits Olney Theatre Stage
Copyright © Helen Murray 2023

“Sleepova” explores themes of friendship, identity, sexuality, and the unique challenges faced by young Black women. Critics praised the play’s honest and exhilarating portrayal of imperfect young friendships.

“All the clumsiness and wide-eyed excitability of the best coming-of-age dramas… an exhilarating tableau of imperfect young friendship and you leave wanting an invite to their next party.”

The Guardian

“I know a good time when I see one, and ‘Sleepova’ surely is that.”

Time Out London

In addition to the Olivier Award, Ibini also won the Critics’ Circle Award for Most Promising Playwright, recognizing her as an up-and-coming talent in British theatre.

Upon receiving the honors, Ibini said: “This is the result of our sleepless nights. Thanks to the Olivier jury for their great taste. It’s hard out here for freelance artists when the government is trying to erase the arts, so keep writing.”

She dedicated the awards to her ancestors, family, friends, and team who supported her work. Ibini also highlighted the play’s celebration of the boundless spirits and dreams of Black women.

“Sleepova” is part of the 2024/25 season at Olney Theatre Center in collaboration with DC Theatre Arts from March 26 – April 27, 2025. Olney Theatre’s Artistic Director Jason Loewith said introducing Feyisayo to “our audiences gives me particular pride”.

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