New Adaptation of We Need New Names

Mufaro Makubika to write a new play for the stage based on Booker prize shortlisted novel WE NEED NEW NAMES by NoViolet Bulawayo

In the midst of an exhausting year- we’re delighted to share some good news:

  • NoViolet Bulawayo’s Man Booker Prize shortlisted novel We Need New Names is to be adapted for the stage by award-winning playwright Mufaro Makubika (Alfred Fagon Award Winner 2018)
  • This new play is Commissioned by Fifth Word, supported by Arts Council England and working in partnership with Nottingham City Library.


There are times, though, that no matter how much food I eat, I find the food does nothing for me, like I am hungry for my country and nothing is going to fix that

In a shanty called Paradise, Darling and her friends spend their days stealing guavas and singing Lady Gaga, all while grasping at memories of life before and dreaming of escape – a dream that one day comes true for Darling. But, as Darling discovers, her new life is a far cry from what she imagined, and this new world brings with it dangers of its own…

We Need New Names was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize (2013), the Guardian First Book Award and was a Barnes & Noble Discover Award finalist. It was the winner of the inaugural Etisalat Prize for Literature, and won the prestigious Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for debut work of fiction. It won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction.

‘‘Sometimes shocking, often heartbreaking but also pulsing with colour and energy” The Times


Mufaro Makubika is an award-winning playwright who lives and works in Nottingham (a city twinned with Harare). Mufaro’s recent play ‘Shebeen’ won the 2018 Alfred Fagon Award for the best new play and was produced to critical acclaim by Nottingham Playhouse and Theatre Royal Stratford East in June 2018, directed by Matthew Xia and with a cast that included Martina Laird and Karl Collins.

“Makubika’s writing is sometimes raw and occasionally brutal, yet it’s also full of tenderness and joy … A Knockout” ★★★★ The Times on ‘Shebeen’.


“Arriving in the UK as an immigrant from Zimbabwe at the age of 16, I identify strongly with the story of Darling and her journey. When I first read We Need New Names it felt as though someone was writing my life down on the page; there is a recognition of self and there is a beauty in seeing that being expressed.

For me, bringing We Need New Names to live audiences in the theatre is part of me still trying to figure out who I am, how to understand my place, and what to call myself here in the United Kingdom. With Zimbabwe and other countries still in the midst of a long and seemingly-unending turmoil there will be many more immigrants from Zimbabwe moving to different parts of the world and I want to make audiences more conscious of that journey.”

Mufaro Makubika


Here at Fifth Word, we are delighted to have secured the rights to create a new play based on NoViolet Bulawayo’s beautifully crafted novel.

This moving funny, devastating and playful coming-of-age story moves across continents and cultures, speaks to the experience of migration, the politics of the female body and to younger audiences.

Fifth Word and Mufaro will be working in partnership with the local community and Nottingham City Library throughout the development of this new play.


“We are tremendously excited about the opportunity to link with such an innovative theatre company and playwright and connecting people in the community directly to the playwriting process and the opportunity to engage with a book in a different way; especially how the novel form can be adapted for stage.”

Rachel Williams, Nottingham City Library


Collaborating together with our local community is a vital part of sharing and creating this new play.

Running through all Fifth Word’s commissions, productions and community projects is the commitment to engage audiences and communities with work that is relevant, accessible and meaningful to them.

All our work addresses the inequality that exists in access to the arts by directly paying and enabling artists to make work; nurturing artists that reflect and are representative of the diversity of the East Midlands; engaging with audiences and local communities to reclaim theatre & the arts as a relevant space for them and their stories.

– Angharad Jones
Joint Artistic Director


Join NCL Readers Group

On Wednesday 24 February 7pm Nottingham City Library will be having an online discussion about the book on their Nottingham Library Readers Facebook page, just search for the group and join if you are not already a member:

Join a focus group

In late March, a focus group will be held with anyone who has read We Need New Names, hosted by Fifth Word and Nottingham City Libraries via Zoom. This will help Mufaro gain insight into what people connect with and take away from reading the book and help shape the next draft of the play. To book a place on the focus group Please send an email to by Wednesday 17 March

Free books!

Fifth Word will gift a copy of the book to anyone in the East Midlands who has Black African or Caribbean heritage who would like to take part in the focus group. Please get in touch or contact us on twitter (@fifthword)

In conversation

Fifth Word and Nottingham City library will also host a special online event “In Conversation’ with Mufaro Makubika’ where Muafro will talk about his journey as a playwright and the process of adapting this novel for the stage.

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