Monday, 6 March 2017

If I Had A Dramaturgy: Mariem Omari on tour across Scotland

AMINA, MWRC present
If I Had a Girl…

A powerful new production, set within the beauty, sounds and aromas of an Asian-Scots wedding celebration, explores the real-life stories of honour-based violence.

Written by Mariem Omari | Directed by Umar Ahmed 

UK TOUR Monday 27th February – Thursday 16th March 2017, various times   

A captivating mix of verbatim storytelling, physical theatre and live music, this vibrant new performance provides a bold and hard-hitting insight into the lived experience of survivors and perpetrators of honour-based violence in ethnic minority communities around Scotland.

The performance, which had a sold out Glasgow showcase in 2015, exposes how the choices we make, the families we are born into, and the expectations of others can shape our lives irrevocably. If I had a girl… speaks for those who suffer honour-based violence, and all who have experienced violence at home, whose voices are silenced or stolen and ultimately offers hope. 

Writer Mariem Omari said: “Storytelling is healing. This is the reason why If I had a girl... was born. After running a three-day workshop focused on healing and storytelling for women who have experienced abuse and honour-based violence, we decided we wanted these stories to have a life beyond the workshop, and I started a year long process of weaving the stories together. It was clear that I needed to balance the women’s stories against the stories of men who have lived the experience of violence, either through perpetrating it or trying to stop it. 

With support from Safer Families in Edinburgh, I interviewed men on the Caledonia Programme - a three-year programme for men with a record of domestic violence - to give a more complete picture of the journeys that all these people go on, and their struggles against a backdrop of long held cultural and religious traditions based on honour and shame. 

“At times the performance can be challenging to watch, but my focus was always on what I wanted the audience to feel and the integrity of the stories. There is a wonderful push-pull between the drama and the humour that unfolds as each story is revealed to the audience.”

AMINA MWRC is a leading, award winning organisation, recognised by BME communities within Scotland for its pioneering work with BME and Muslim women. 

Having invested in this area where there was previously a gap in services in Scotland, Amina is now recognised as the national hub for gaining access to and consulting with BME/Muslim women across Scotland, and for initiating innovative services to meet the particular needs of these women as well as working in partnership with mainstream services to contribute to national policies.

Their Violence Against Women Programme and You Can Change This campaign builds on years of work which includes the production of a range of films encouraging Muslim Imams and scholars to speak out against sexual harassment, ‘honour’ based violence and domestic abuse. Their work on Violence Against Women has created a platform for BME/Muslim women and men to speak out against this issue. This work has now culminated with the production of If I had a girl...

How did you become interested in making performance?

I've always been fascinated by the reaction of audiences, especially when they are caught up watching a good story. It's so much more powerful to see how peoples faces screw up, or their bodies shudder in the theatre, more so than when watching a film of TV, because it's all happening right there in front of them. It's so much more engaging than seeing the same story told through a screen.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

The inspiration for If I had a girl...was two fold - bringing the issue of honour violence and domestic abuse in minority communities in Scotland to the forefront of people's minds, and the use of storytelling as a way of healing. 

Is theatre still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

Absolutely! My work is what might be termed social engaged theatre, which is why I focus on verbatim. The verbatim plays I have written have been looking at issues, such as honour violence, or childhood trauma and adult shame, specifically to incite public discussion post show. And they have! That's the beauty of a live audience - it gives you the opportunity as the writer, to inspire them to feel the things you want them to feel, in order to act. 

Was there any particular approach to the making of the show, and does this reflect your 'usual' approach’?

With Umar Ahmed as the Director, I knew the approach was going to be physical, and played out on the actors bodies. Umar and I have worked to create what we refer to as 'Physical Verbatim Theatre'  - the use of verbatim stories combined with physical theatre - which allowed us to create a piece that is dynamic, rather than a static narrative which is so often seen with verbatim. 

We see the actors as the storytellers, and therefore choose to minimise the use of props and multimedia, so that what the audience gets is truthful, intimate storytelling.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

I want the audience to be disturbed and hopeful - it's what I want all my work to do, which is why I am attracted to the hard issues communities often don't want to deal with.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

Humour and truth. I write with that at the forefront of my mind, and Umar directs with this as his motivation.

Mariem Omari is an activist, playwright and performer. She lived and worked across the Middle East and during that time, she met and worked with some of the most vulnerable women in the region – refugees and survivors of violence. She has since committed to promoting the stories of women to strengthen the voice for human’s rights and equality. Mariem performed in a number of productions in Australia including Macbeth, Servant of Two Masters, and The Garrison. She worked for Master Puppeteer and Artistic Director of Company Skylark, Peter Wilson, on productions such as Wake Baby, Love Suicides, and The Hobbit.

Her solo show, Staring out of Windows, was developed as part of the Street Theatre’s HIVE Program and LaMaMa NY’s 2014 International Playwrights Residency, and will be produced in Australia in 2017. She is currently one of the National Theatre of Scotland’s selected Starter for Ten artists, for her new play, One Mississippi. 

Umar Ahmed is an actor, director, and writer. He has worked extensively in Scotland. His first play Sylhety was performed in Dhaka. He also wrote and directed Lupo for Grahamstown Festival, South Africa and he's the director and co-writer of How to make a Killing in Bollywood which toured nationally of the back off its success at the Edinburgh Fringe. Other credits  include: My  Name  Is (Tamasha  Theatre  Company), Eclipse (Necessary Stage Company, Singapore), Re-Union (7:84 Theatre Company, Scotland), Damascus Aleppo and Could You Please Look  into  the Camera (National Theatre  of Scotland/Oran Mor), Theatre UnCut (Traverse Theatre, Scotsman Fringe first), The Old Curiosity Shop and Rallying Round (NTC Theatre Company), Brrr... Arabian  Nights (Proteus  Theatre), The  Animal  People (The  Bare  project), Taggart (TV), Big  Sky,  A  World Elsewhere, Going Spare and Early Belt Present (BBC Radio 4).

Cast & company

Cast Louise Haggerty, Rehanna MacDonald, Storm Skyler McClure, Manjot Sumal and further names TBC
Written by Mariem Omari Directed by Umar Ahmed 

Running time: 75 minutes (no interval) | Age restriction: 14+ | @AminaMWRC | #IfIhadagirl 

Supported by Big Lottery Fund and the Scottish Government

Listings information

Platform, The Bridge, 1000 Westerhouse Rd, Glasgow, G34 9JW
Monday 27th February 2017
7pm | £8.50 (£5.00) 
Box office:  0141 276 9696 | Tickets from

Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge St, Edinburgh, EH1 2ED
Thursday 2nd – Saturday 4th March 2017 
8pm | £16.50 (£13.50) 
Box office: 0131 228 1404 | Tickets from  

Paisley Arts Centre, New Street, Paisley, PA1 1EZ
Tuesday 7th March 2017
7.30pm | £10.00 (£6.00) 
Box office: 0300 300 1210 | Tickets from http//

Beacon Arts Centre, Custom House Quay, Greenock, PA15 1EQ
Wednesday 8th March 2017 
7.30pm | £10.00 (£8.00) 
Box office: 01475 723723 | Tickets from

Lemon Tree, 5 West North Street, Aberdeen, AB24 5AT
Friday 10th March 2017  
7pm | £12.00 (£10.00) 
Box office: 01224 641122 | Tickets from

Eden Court, Bishops Road, Inverness, IV3 5SA
Tuesday 14th March 2017  
8pm | £12.00 (£10.00) 
Box office: 01463 234 234 | Tickets from

Dundee Rep Theatre, Tay Square, Dundee, DD1 1PB
Thursday 16th March 2017  
7.30pm | £14.00 (£12.00) 
Box office: 01382 223530 | Tickets from 

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