Monday, 18 January 2016

Stateless Dramaturgy: Subika Anwar


new play readings and new plays
Tristan Bates Theatre
January 11th-15th – new play readings
January 19th-23rd – a double bill of new plays

The award winning KALI THEATRE COMPANY specialises in presenting new plays by South Asian female playwrights, a mission that has been instrumental in developing talent and taking powerful new work to increasing audiences and critical acclaim across the UK for the past 25 years.

TALKBACK is the culmination of Kali’s innovative Writer Development Programme through which the company discovers, inspires and develops original voices.  From scripts submitted to an open call out a year earlier, writers are chosen to join the Writer Development Programme which includes writing workshops, discussions with guest writers and dramaturgs and one-to-one tutorials.  

Talkback is as unmissable as it is unique.

January 19th – 23rd at 7.30pm - A double bill of two compelling new plays
She Is Not Herself by Veronica J. Dewan 
Stateless by Subika Anwar 

Denny has recently returned home from serving in Afghanistan. He is now the gatehouse keeper of a psychiatric hospital. Late one night, he receives an unexpected visit from an intriguing stranger.  She is easy to talk to but is she the person she seems to be?  At a time of global uncertainty, Stateless merges contemporary political issues with a personal story.

Let’s start with a lazy one: can you tell me a little about your career so far?
Subika Anwar: I studied Creative Writing and English Language at Gloucestershire University and have written scripts for public readings and been lucky enough to have been involved with some Playwriting Programmes with companies like Theatre Writing Partnerships, Nabokov theatre, the Roundhouse, The Birmingham REP, Ulfah Arts, Tamasha theatre, Belgrade Theatre, Hightide Festival Theatre, New Perspectives Theatre in Nottingham, The Royal Court Theatre, Nottingham Playhouse, Royal and Derngate theatre and now Kali.

I’ve also been fortunate to have done some acting too so have performed at the Royal and Derngate Theatre in my hometown, Northampton, Curve Theatre Leicester, Embrace Arts/ Attenborough Arts Centre and have also devised a touring piece called Goldfish with New Perspectives Theatre Company on their Step Up programme.

As a freelance writer I’ve also covered various stories for a London based Hip Hop Magazine I Am Hip Hop from music reviews to dance events.

What encouraged you to write for the stage?
In my final year at University I decided to do a Playwriting module and really enjoyed the process. I didn’t see it as writing but more as a way of creating moments and live action so it felt very freeing and distinct from prose or poetry. 

So it was a new revelation that I became fascinated with. I found out later that ‘Playwright’ isn’t a variant spelling of ‘play-write’. To ‘wrought’ something, in archaic English, means to craft or build, which is how it feels when constructing the words, actions and themes together. 

What kind of collaboration do you have with Kali during the writing and production process?

Yes massively. I took part in Kali’s Writing programme with a group of other writers in 2014 where we received writing workshops over the course of a year. This then resulted in the rehearsed reading at the Talkback festival in 2015 where I work-shopped the play with Director Kate Chapman who I’ve also worked with in the past. 

Since Kali decided to commission the play, I have worked with Trilby James, the Director, over the past year by really getting to know the characters objectively and developing the story. 

We’ve also done lots of work with the actors to get it performance ready, since we started rehearsals, which has resulted in lots of rewrites. It’s been a great learning curve and I’ve developed as a writer, because of that collaboration. But at the same time it’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

Do you see your scripts within a particular tradition, and are there artists who inspire and influence you?

Most of my writing, I’ve noticed, has always had a cultural specificity to it. Growing up as a British Pakistani in a predominantly English town probably has something to do with that. I’ve written from the age of about 6 so the need to write also comes from a place of enjoyment and an innate love for the arts that breaks boundaries. 

I have a really long list of writers and artists who I love including musicians, painters and philosophers. For example Ibrahim El-Salahi influenced Stateless once I conceived the idea, as art often does, but his work revealed his journey in context of a broader global understanding. It was an integration of Islamic, African, Arab and Western ideas which is how the characters in Stateless feel.

In terms of writers I’ve grown up reading, I often read Pinter, Beckett, Ionesco, Sartre, Kane and of course Churchill but more recently I’ve been inspired by writers like Enda Walsh, Martin McDonagh and Alistair McDowall for their lack of fear and willingness to take unsafe and interesting risks, which is something I’m still learning to do within my own work. 

Is Theatre a good place for the public discussion of ideas?
Absolutely. As one, of many writers, who has felt the pressures of artistic and governmental agenda to create safe theatre that ticks the right box, it is important that my work responds to both the state of the nation and the world at large but not just for the sake of it. My work has started to make comment on how we view contemporary global conflicts and a post-modern kind of war but for a reason. 
Culturally specific theatre tells us a lot about the society we live in, arguably serving as a pointer of the nation’s unspoken desires and aspirations. It’s a great way to provide and understand a snapshot of those complexities surrounding British culture. 

However I don’t think theatre has the ability to change the world. The idea of freedom of expression, for example, isn’t often supported with the content of what’s being said and equally by whom. How do privileged theatre makers decide who speaks for who and is that authenticity truly being represented in theatre? 

With the new appetites and pressures of theatres to get ‘bums on seats’, I’ve noticed there is no longer room for uncensored politically bold vernacular. Instead unashamed upper middle-class preoccupations and their fondness for a seasonal fragment of working class, complete their appetising consumption.
It’s important to raise questions and challenge false representations on a larger scale. Stateless, for example, was born out of personal frustrations around false representations and assumptions of Islam, which may never change. 

But if theatre can begin forming a discussion and challenge those issues by unsettling these frustrations and assumptions authentically, then perhaps it will contribute towards a changing society. 

TALKBACK PROGRAMME – more details:

Monday January 11th at 7:30pm
Porcelain Dolls by Yasmin Whittaker-Khan (London)
Javed, a victim of Bacha Bazi (Afghan slang for homosexual paedophilia) is temporarily left in the care of a Khawaja Sara household by his ‘owner’, an Afghan Warlord, where he finds friendship and stability. The Khawaja Sara community – the ‘third’ gender or ‘shemale’ – is both revered and avoided in Pakistan. Javed’s future is put to the test when his owner comes to reclaim him…

Yasmin Whittaker-Khan is a youth worker, writer, presenter & social activist.  Her produced scripts/publications include Reshaam (Silk), Love Stomp, Pleasure and Pain, Lucy, Telephone Love, In No Sense, Twelve, Index On Censorship, English Pen, Silver Street and Bells which has been translated and performed around the world. She wrote/produced short films, Lemon Juke Box & Le Grand Jour, Jihad Of The Mind and scripted and co-presented a series for Anglia TV. She’s had residencies at Theatre Royal Stratford East, is an Associate Artist of RIFCO Theatre Company in Watford, and is writing a children’s book.

Tuesday January 12th at 7.30pm
The Deported by Sadia Saeed (London)
Directed by Janet Steel 
Personal passions become intertwined with international diplomacy when an exiled Pakistani politician arrested for money laundering is brought to a London police station. Hilarious complications arise with the arrival of a reporter, her mother, the wife of the politician and the Attorney General who happens to be the father of the sergeant.

Sadia Saeed is a London-based writer and filmmaker. She has written, directed and produced many sketches and short films including The Morgue and Miss Universe.  Sadia also co-wrote, directed and produced the low-budget feature film I Hate Candy in which she also acted.  Her most recent short, Aleeza and Harriet, is currently doing the rounds of international film festivals and she is working with producer Peter Leslie on the development of the feature length film drama Arifa about a young woman’s life and family.  The Deported is Sadia’s first play.

Faded by Sharanpreet Kaur Atwal (Essex)
Directed by Janet Steel 
Every day is different and new for Preet. And every day is a constant worry for her daughter Simran. Living with a troubled past is hard enough. Living with dementia makes it even harder.

Sharanpreet Kaur Atwal is an actress based in Essex. After years of keeping her writing to herself, she finally decided to share her work and with the support of Kali, is delighted that Faded, her first play, is part of Kali’s Talkback series.  Sharanpreet was inspired to write Faded after hearing about dementia; following intensive research she decided to create a piece which shows the struggle from the point of view of the person suffering dementia as well as how the condition affects the people around them. 

Wednesday January 13th at 7.30pm
Pebbles and Stones by Jaswinder Blackwell-Pal (London)
Directed by Poonam Brah
Jamil and Areeb are enraged by local racist attacks and join in counter protests. Jamil's father is vehemently against their actions, pleading for him to stay out of trouble as he prepares for university but when Jamil meets a veteran local activist, the real reasons his father has rejected protest are revealed.

Pebbles and Stones is Jaswinder Blackwell-Pal's first full length play. She is a community activist and writer on attachment to Old Vic New Voices, who she will continue to work with over the next year. She recently graduated with an MA in Text and Performance from RADA and Birkbeck, where she began developing a script inspired by the life of the painter Piet Mondrian, which will be her next project.

Thursday January 14th at 7.30pm
Familiar Strangers by Nina Joshi Ramsey (London)
Directed by Janet Steel 
A mother waits to meet her estranged son on the wedding day of his daughter who she has never met. As the play moves back in time it explores how the close bonds they once shared were severed two decades earlier. Can they overcome the pain and secrets of the past? 

Nina Joshi Ramsey was born in London to itinerant parents who settled in British East Africa, Nina Joshi Ramsey left Kenya as a teenager after an attack on their home in the violent 1982 attempted military coup. Her account of that won a place in the 2nd Decibel Penguin Literary Prize Anthology. Nina’s fact and fiction writing has appeared in magazine, anthology and short play format, and her debut novel, Lifewalla, was inspired by the true events of the 1984 Bhopal Gas Disaster, raising funds for survivor clinics.

Friday January 15th at 7.30pm
Sweets and Chocolates by Shazia Ashraf (Wakefield, Yorkshire)
Directed by Shona Morris
Nadia is a cricket obsessed eleven year old in rural Pakistan. M'Bilia Bel is a single devout Christian in the Congo. Catherine is a headmistress of a private school in England. Three monologues intertwine to explore the subject of paedophilia from the point of view of the victim, witness and perpetrator. 

Shazia Ashraf is a Wakefield based writer/director; she has been a writer-on-attachment to West Yorkshire Playhouse and trained via the Street Voices scheme with Freedom Studios. Her first play Peacocks was showcased at Theatre in the Mill (Bradford). Shazia also run a writers’ group My Big Phat Writers Group that works to support BAME scriptwriters. 

Splinter by Abhi Arumbakkam (Slough)
Directed by Shona Morris 
What happens when someone reappears and pokes around the cold embers of your bitter separation? Does it rekindle fury long buried but never fully extinguished?  Can Durga and Vishnu ever fully put their long-dead marriage to rest or each time they look ahead, will they catch a glimpse of their past?

Abhi Arumbakkam is a mother and draws on people and their infinite complexities to tell her stories. She is a videographer and a documentary film-maker.  She is endlessly curious about life and loves art in any form.  Splinter is her first play and thanks to Kali Theatre's Talkback development programme, she has written two more.

January 19th – 23rd at 7.30pm 
A double bill of two compelling new plays

She Is Not Herself by Veronica J. Dewan (Salisbury)
Directed by Helena Bell
Anoukh is a tourist guide who loves maps. She can find her way to anywhere but cannot find herself. She thinks Jules might have the answers. Jules wants to reclaim the mixed-race daughter she was compelled to give up by the Catholic church. They are strangers to each other yet so much is familiar. As they try to confront the injustices of the past, and negotiate a minefield of emotions, they hear news which threatens to tear this fragile relationship apart.

Veronica J. Dewan writes about adoption, identity, the care system and psychiatry.  She was tutored by Barney Norris and Sam Potter at Salisbury Playhouse’s Out of Joint Writers’ Academy. Her work-in-progress Papa India was developed through Angela Street’s mentoring programme. Her monologue Bustard was presented at Salisbury Arts Centre and at the Fisherton Street Festival. Three of Veronica’s short plays had rehearsed readings at Salisbury Fringe Festivals 2013-2014. Her latest work, The Half Daughter was performed at the Salisbury Fringe 2015. In April 2015, She is Not Herself had a rehearsed reading, directed by Helena Bell, in Theatre Fest West at Salisbury Playhouse.

Stateless by Subika Anwar (Northampton)
Directed by Trilby James
Denny has recently returned home from serving in Afghanistan. He is now the gatehouse keeper of a psychiatric hospital. Late one night, he receives an unexpected visit from an intriguing stranger.  She is easy to talk to but is she the person she seems to be?  At a time of global uncertainty, Stateless merges contemporary political issues with a personal story.

Subika Anwar is a playwright and actor who studied English and creative writing. She has been a member of new writing programmes with companies such as Royal Court, Nottingham Playhouse, Royal and Derngate Theatre where she currently works as assistant director of R&D’s youth theatre programme. As an actor Subika has performed in London, Leicester Curve, Lakeside Arts, Derby Guildhall and recently for Phizzical Theatre at the Leicester Attenborough Centre.  

Kali Theatre was founded in 1991 by Rita Wolf and Rukhsana Ahmad to encourage, develop and present new theatre writing by women from a South Asian background. Since 2002 Kali’s Artistic Director has been Janet Steel. Kali seeks out writers whose work will challenge as well as entertain a wide audience.  Content and ideas are essential to the company’s remit and at its core is the mission to encourage writers to reinvent and reshape the theatrical agenda.
Kali has contributed to the development and support of several important new writers and it has become a natural home for women seeking new ways to express and explore the issues and human interest stories.  

Kali’s annual TALKBACK readings have previously taken place at the Arcola Theatre in Dalston, the Oval House in Kennington, Soho Theatre and Tristan Bates Theatre.  The company’s growing stable of writers have presented plays across the cultural spectrum and written scripts for BBC TV, Channel 4 and other theatre companies.  One of the company’s newest recruits is Aamina Ahmad whose political thriller, ‘The Dishonoured’, will tour the UK from March 2016; dates will include a two and a half week run at the Arcola in Dalston, east London. (Photo: reading of ‘Calcutta Kosher’ by Shelley Silas).

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