Sunday, 9 August 2015

My Name is.. Dramaturgy: Sudha Bhuchar @ Edfringe 2015

My Name Is… | Tamasha

8 – 30 Aug | 19.25 – 20.45 (1hr 20 mins)

A verbatim work that tells the real story behind the headlines of 2006. When Gaby disappeared from her Scottish home, it was assumed that her Pakistani father had kidnapped her, until it emerged that Gaby may have fled of her own accord, To her mother Suzy’s distress, Gaby declared: ‘Myname is Ghazala’, and turned her back on Gaby and seemingly, the West. Written by Sudha Bhuchar. Directed by Philip Osment.

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
Sudha Bhuchar: The one thing that inspired this production was me reading the following article. It really moved me as to how this real life love story had gone wrong and fed wider agendas around ‘islam and the west’ when it was such a deeply personal story. I then managed to make contact with Adrian and Cathy who wrote the article and through them made contact with Molly and her parents. 

I went to Pakistan to interview Molly and her father and subsequently to Stornoway to interview the mother. I transcribed the interviews and thought I was writing a ‘fictional’ play based on the family’s story. I kept coming back to them in their own words and the play was eventually crafted out of that.

Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
The festival is such a great place for audiences from all over and I feel this piece resonates with a really diverse audience. Also it is a deeply Scottish story with themes that resonate widely so I felt it would be a great ‘festival’ show that unites local and festival/international audiences. We are delighted that we also have a tour of Scotland to follow so that multi cultural audiences in other parts of Scotland can see it on their doorstep.
What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
The audience can expect to see three people telling this deeply personal story with humour and warmth and laying bare the emotional heart of what the family went through. There is a poignancy around knowing that it is ‘verbatim’ testimony but crafted in a way that isn’t static but deeply engaging I hope. The production is uncluttered and unadorned and at the heart is the truthful acting and simplicity that captures the complexity of the situation. I have tried to show all the different points of view and ask the audience to think about how personal stories can feed into wider political agendas. I hope the audience will feel for all three protagonists and are moved by the piece.
The Dramaturgy Questions
How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
I always value working with a dramaturg and endeavour to do so in all my work as well as having particular points in the journey where I invite feedback from peers and audience as I make my work. With My Name is… as the process has taken so long to come to the genre that I have ended up with, I have had a lot of feedback from colleagues including the director James Mcdonald.  

Lin Coghlan worked with me right the way through and helped me to clarify ‘how’ the story eventually got told; ie crafted through verbatim testimony but edited and arranged in such a way that was informed by a structure that came from all our conversations and Lin’s response to the various drafts.
What particular traditions and influences would you acknowledge on your work -  have any particular artists, or genres inspired you and do you see yourself within their tradition?
I am sure there must be artists and genres that have inspired me but it’s hard to pin point. I started making theatre through meeting other young British Asians like myself who were second generation and had lived our childhood elsewhere (in my case E Africa and India). It is coming together in our experience of ‘otherness’ that inspired me to go into theatre by accident. I joined Tara arts group and through theatre learned about my culture, history and connections to how I was in the UK. 

All that and collaboration with colleagues like Kristine Landon-Smith (co founder of Tamasha) and seeing work like A raisin in the sun by Lorraine Hansberry that made me look to theatre and voices that were missing in mainstream theatre. This led me to forming Tamasha and exploring how to make work which is inspired by being British Asian and looking at the world through that lens. I am always drawn to deeply personal stories that illuminate wider themes about the human condition. I always like to write from the ‘small’ story and widen the landscape from there. 

So for instance I was inspired to write about children and their experiences during the partition of India rather than write about the complex politics of what led upto it. I have valued working with colleagues like Phil Osment (director of My Name is… and a long-term dramaturg for many of Tamasha’s writers) who also makes urgent and relevant work through starting from people’s personal experiences. He has a huge body or work that he has written and makes inspiring work from research.
Do you have a particular process of making that you could describe - where it begins, how you develop it, and whether there is any collaboration in the process?
My process does always seem to start from a seed of an idea. An article, a short story or something personal like eating in Balti restaurants in Birmingham (inspiration for Balti kings, co written by Shaheen khan) and wondering about the lives of the people in the kitchens. I love to research and often record interviews and it’s from that research that I start to write. I often have a workshop process and love to collaborate with actors and co write (as with Kristine Landon-Smith in a lot of Tamasha’s work). Sometimes we have taken a book like Rohinton Mistry’s A fine balance and used a longer rehearsal process to explore how the adaptation with be crafted from improvisation with actors and exploring the physical language and imagery of the piece.
What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?  
The audience is a vital part of giving ‘meaning’ to the work and at different times have played a pivotal role. Much of my work has come from researching communities; for instance Strictly dandia which was about the Gujarati community and it was very important to me that the community feels that a mirror has been held to them to enable themselves to be reflected in all their complexity and that they feel an ownership to the work. It was deeply important to me that the family who My Name is… is about similarly felt that their story had been given a deeper meaning that rang true to them and also was offered to wider audiences to promote understanding and dialogue.

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