Monday, 16 October 2017

Bitched Dramaturgy: Juliet Knight @ Kali

the premiere of:

BITCHED’ by Sharon Raizada

A pacy, sharply observed contemporary drama about 

relationships, marriage, children, careers and having it all…or not…

October 25th-November 11th – Tristan Bates Theatre, London WC2

Bitched’ centres on the relationships and everyday lives of two vibrant couples: Rob and Ali, and Suzanne and Nirjay.  The tangled subjects of love, marriage, parenthood, responsibility, ambition and careers are aired and debated in an often heated atmosphere amid polarising views and changing circumstances.  

Will the couples stay together despite their differences…will they be able to balance parenthood, marriage and careers…will chasing the dream affect everything else…or will they somehow find a path to equality and happiness…Raizada asks all these questions and more.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

JULIET KNIGHT:      As a working mother I have wanted to work on a project exploring motherhood for a long time so I was really excited when I read Sharon's script. My relationship with the themes of the play was deeply rooted in my own experience of juggling motherhood and work for the past sixteen years. 

As a theatre maker I really thrive on collaboration so was excited to literally start on stage with a blank canvas. Exploring artists like Tracey Emin sparked the idea of a stage scattered with the cluttered life of a working mother; and Mary Kelly’s seminal 1972 short film Nightcleaners Part 1 made me very clear that the aesthetic for this piece of theatre would use realistic domestic items and stylised physical sequences to create the work of art.
Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas?

JULIET KNIGHT:      The story of Ali (‘Bitched’ protagonist) sees the journey of a financially dependent people-pleasing wife/mother to a self sufficient, financially independent working single parent. By following this story and facing uncomfortable portrayals of women and how they treat each other the audience are
invited to ask questions. 

I am looking forward to fellow parents from the school gates seeing this production. Something in the live nature of theatre and chats in a bar after feels good for the soul. I spend a lot of time with a screen these days so I feel gathering around a stage and being part of a collective is what we need more of.

How did you become interested in making performance?

JULIET KNIGHT:      As a kid I loved old black and white films. When I look back I realise I've always found great comfort and inspiration in stories. I trained as an actor and while I loved performing in my 20s, I started to enjoy the creativity of shaping and building a show. Finding the right piece of music to tell the story or watching actors discover their characters through an improvisation became joyful.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

JULIET KNIGHT:      I do not decide what the actors will be doing before I begin a process. I like to be brave enough to trust that the real discoveries that make a show have pieces of magic happen in the room. 

One thing that excited me on ‘Bitched’ was when I set up a long improvisation with the actors and a room full of objects. I allowed them to go through an imaginary day in the life of their characters. Watching this improvisation fed into all the physical moments and helped to bring a playfulness to the text.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

JULIET KNIGHT:      I find myself working mostly in new writing or using theatre as a form of social change. Creating work at the women’s theatre company Clean Break with women who have been in the criminal justice system and working with organisations that engage vulnerable young people has shown me how powerful the arts is. 

Last year I directed a show in Thameside Prison in south east London and watched the male prisoners engage, respect and create a professional production. The ethos of Kali and giving South Asian women a voice is something I feel proud to be part of.

What do you hope the audience will experience?

JULIET KNIGHT:      I hope the audience will care about the female characters. I hope they feel the struggle of the characters and most importantly I hope they ask the question of whether parenting alone is the "real" answer. I would also hope that they find the humour in the piece and leave feeling uplifted.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

JULIET KNIGHT:      I spent a lot of time with Sharon Raizada, the writer, working through the text. I immersed myself in the world of the play with the designer for a day. I played games in rehearsals and created a safe space to make work. I decided that the play would be more effective with an audience experience on two sides in order to pull them even closer to the action. 

By laying a laminate floor throughout the whole theatre it makes the audience feel they are in the set.  I think this intimacy gives the audience even more opportunity to be at the heart of the story.

The award-winning KALI THEATRE presents new plays by South Asian female playwrights.  Since it was founded 25 years ago, Kali has discovered and developed talent from across the UK and taken powerful new work to increasing audiences and critical acclaim.

This October Kali are delighted to present BITCHED’, a contemporary new drama by Sharon Raizada, whose own experiences of becoming a mother led to her musings about having it all: marriage, children, job, happiness, equality.

7.30pm: ‘BITCHEDat Tristan Bates: 
October      25th, 26th, 27th, 28th

90 minutes straight through, no interval
November    1st, 2nd 3rd, 4th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th
Box office:      020 3841 6611
Tickets:     £14 (£10 concessions)

Kali’s Artistic Director, Helena Bell, says: “I’m really excited that we’ll be back at Tristan Bates with Sharon’s lively, thought-provoking new play.  ‘Bitched’ is very much a play for our times: about managing – and balancing - relationships and marriage, careers and parenthood that I believe will appeal to a very wide audience.  It’s written with great heart and personal experience by Sharon Raizada who has a wonderful ear for dialogue and a sharp eye for character.  I think audiences will be completely drawn into the world of the four – very strong – characters and I hope it’ll lead to much discussion afterwards.”

Sharon Raizada says: 
“Inspired by my own shock at becoming a mum, I wanted to look at the lives of modern women through the polar opposites of Ali and Suzanne. ‘Bitched’ takes an unflinching look at our lives as we try to negotiate the stresses of work, sex and kids, asking: is it an impossible task?  I was very aware of the change in my own life that came with being a new mother; it was a shock to find the independence and autonomy of a young working woman that I’d always taken for granted, taken away, however temporarily.

“I naturally assumed I could ‘have it all’ and be on exactly the same level as my male friends and peers, but the experience of motherhood changed my role, my status and frankly my employability in a way that is much more similar to my mother’s experience than I wanted (and expected) it to be – I realised that maybe women have travelled a much smaller distance than I thought…”

Sharon’s work has been supported and produced by Kali Theatre, Royal Court Theatre, Soho Theatre, Hampstead Theatre, Oval House Theatre, ITV and BBC Radio 4. She is a graduate of the MPhil in Playwriting at Birmingham University and the Royal Court Critical Mass Writers’ Programme. She was a member of the Royal Court Invitation Studio Group and has worked on Emmerdale and hit CBeebies show ‘Apple Tree House’.

Bitched is directed by Juliet Knight whose many directing credits include: 'Zigger Zagger' by Peter Terson at Wiltons Music Hall with the National Youth Theatre, 'A Raison in the Sun' by Lorraine Hansberry with Synergy Theatre, 'Runts' by Izzy Tennyson at The Brighton and Camden Fringe Festival, 'Variety Hall' by Luke Barnes and 'Prime Resident' by Stella Duffy at Soho Theatre.

“Juggling motherhood and work is a recurring theme in my own life,” says Juliet, “so I am thrilled to be directing Sharon Raizada’s fresh new play which offers a much needed voice asking why parents struggle to fulfil their own needs and what is the cost? Why having children and raising a family in a partnership seems to offer little value or financial reward for the stay at home parent? And what roles do our employers and policy makers have in setting up a healthy home and work life balance?”

Juliet’s recent acting credits include 'Caught in the Net' by Ray Cooney at Vaudeville Theatre,'Tomorrow' by Sam Evans at The White Bear and ‘Eastenders’/BBC.  Juliet is a lecturer at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and an Associate Director for The National Youth Theatre.

Kali’s success in developing and staging new plays is evident: ‘Mustafa’ by Naylah Ahmed was nominated for 4 Offies in the Off West End Theatre Awards as well as the Royal National Theatre Playwright Award; tour dates included a two week run at London’s Soho Theatre.  Sonali Bhattacharyya’s play ‘Home’ was presented by Kali and led to a commission at Birmingham Rep and scripts for BBC series such as Eastenders and Holby City.

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. Kali seeks out writers whose work will challenge as well as entertain a wide audience.  Original content and ideas are an essential part of the company’s 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 has become a natural home for women seeking new ways to express and explore contemporary issues and human interest stories.  Helena Bell became Artistic Director last year.

Kali’s annual TALKBACK readings have previously taken place at the Arcola Theatre, Oval House, Soho Theatre and Tristan Bates Theatre.  Past Kali writers have presented plays across the cultural spectrum and written scripts for BBC TV, Channel 4 and other theatre companies.  

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