Monthly Archives: October 2019

This week on the I Wanna Be Yours tour: BSL performer Rachael Merry

Rachael Merry – photo by Rebecca Need-Menear

1. Tell us what I Wanna Be Yours is about.

The play explores the relationship between Ella and Haseeb, and the obstacles that come their way as they navigate societal reaction to their perceived differences. It is a powerful and hugely pertinent story.

2. Why did you decide to work in theatre?

Theatre and performing arts is where I started, having grown up taking part in dance and musical theatre. It was therefore a natural progression to marry my work within the Deaf community with my skills as a performer. I feel incredibly lucky to be working within such a niche area of the industry.

3. What attracted you to this role?

From my first reading of the script, I was overwhelmed by the poetic beauty and richness of the language. The story itself is incredibly powerful and one that needs to be told. I am thrilled to be one of the people involved in making this piece accessible to the Deaf community. I was very aware of the challenge it posed, however was really excited by the visual possibilities within the imagery and how they could be shown through BSL.

Rachael Merry in I Wanna Be Yours by Zia Ahmed. Directed by Anna Himali Howard. ©The Other Richard

4. Talk us through the creative decision to name your character Rachael – do you feel like you are playing yourself on stage?

In my role as the interpreter within this story; I am myself. It seemed fitting for me to keep my own name as I am just another person receiving this story from Ella and Haseeb along with the audience. I think this decision has allowed my character to be integral to the piece without interrupting their journey.

5. What was the rehearsal process like?

Incredibly challenging, but also a lot of fun! As a company we have been learning together how the integration may work so in the early stages this involved a lot of play and exploration. Too often, BSL interpretation and access is a last minute thought, added on to an existing piece. It was great to be part of the story from the very beginning and explore how my character and the addition of BSL integration becomes part of the narrative. I worked with two Deaf BSL consultants for both the rehearsal and tech periods which was vital for playing with the language and achieving the correct translation. The play is heavily metaphorical and very dialogue heavy so it was extremely important to have Deaf artists involved at every stage.

6. Do you have a favourite moment in the play?

I don’t want to give too much away! But for me my favourite moments occur when I can hand over the visual storytelling to Ella and Haseeb and my role takes a back seat as their connection is beautiful to watch. There’s also physical movement and some snippets of dance which are a lot of fun!

7. Is there anything particularly special about the way BSL is integrated into I Wanna Be Yours

For me, Anna’s vision, patience and determination for this piece to be a 3-hander has made a huge difference to the connection between the three of us on stage, and I really hope this translates for the Deaf community. Both Em and Ragevan (Ella and Haseeb) have been absolutely incredible to work with and it definitely makes a difference to the final piece. The BSL access is integral to the narrative and is rooted in the telling of the story. I’m really exited to see how it is received and hope we can get as many Deaf audience members as possible to witness this story.

8. Can you tell us about the work you do outside of theatre? 

I am incredibly lucky in that most of my work is connected in some way to theatre and access. As an actor and interpreter I work within a few different areas including workshop facilitation, education and different areas of performance.

9. What do you think Theatres should be doing in order to reach more D/deaf audiences / BSL users? 

The climate is definitely changing and it is wonderful to see more and more Deaf actors and professionals working within on and offstage roles. The more the industry continues to open up to this the better; ensuring access and equality is considered from the start and no longer an afterthought.

Emily Stott and Ragevan Vasan in I Wanna Be Yours by Zia Ahmed. Directed by Anna Himali Howard. ©The Other Richard

I Wanna Be Yours is touring nationwide until December. Are we touring near you?


Decolonising History – What Does That Even Mean?

Actress, writer and singer,  Danusia Samal (Out of Sorts, Busking It), was one of five playwrights who took up residence in the History department of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).
Danusia’s audio drama, The Museum, is inspired by what she found, having attended classes and engaged with the students and teachers. Here, Danusia shares the experiences of her ten-day SOAS residency.  

Playwright, Danusia Samal

I was thrilled when back in 2018, Tamasha invited myself and a few other writers to SOAS University to discuss a potential new project. They wanted to create a series of short audio dramas written in collaboration with the university. The theme would be “Decolonising History”.

Having recently started exploring my own cultural history, the idea of ‘decolonising’ really gripped me. Knowing family and friends who have attended SOAS, I saw it as a place where I could learn and gain access to knowledge from all over the world, to things we don’t normally see, hear or learn in traditional British education or the media. When the project was confirmed and I was asked to join in, I was over the moon. Decolonise! Smash the patriarchy! I am going to write something revolutionary!

Having trained at drama school, I’ve never done an academic degree or been part of a university. I loved having my SOAS staff pass (“look at me mum, I’m a University professor!”) and being able to use the library, explore campus, and take in the atmosphere of what I felt was quite a unique university. This must be what it’s like to be an intellectual.

As participants in the project, we were encouraged to enrol on courses on the BA History Course. We could attend lectures, access online resources, and meet and talk to staff and students. ‘Decolonising History’ was always an interesting discussion starter: “What is it? What does it mean to you?”

I became very interested in the conflicts that arose from this question – internal university politics, the struggle of being taught Eastern history by almost entirely Caucasian staff, the inherent colonialism and discrimination in academia, and what, if anything, could be done to solve it.

I also loved being able to go to lectures on things I knew nothing about, learning something completely unfamiliar. Like the other writers on the project, I threw myself into getting everything I could out of the SOAS experience. I filled notebooks with notes, took out hundreds of books, wrote questionnaires for the students, conducted interviews…

That’s when the really big question arose: What the hell am I gonna write about? A particular period in history? My own cultural history? The experience of learning history? Where will it be set? Africa? The Middle East? East Asia? South Asia? The Carribbean? Europe? Do I set it in Britain? At SOAS? And for all my research, am I any wiser about what ‘decolonising history’ actually means and how it can be done?

Like many of the other writers on the project, (I hope they don’t mind me saying this) I fretted and fretted about all of the above. Deadlines loomed nearer and I didn’t have a single idea with dramatic potential. How could I do justice to all the brilliant conversations I’d had, the books I’d read, the lectures I’d attended?

Thankfully, inspiration came. In April, I was lucky enough to attend two one-day workshops: one on writing for radio with Tamasha, and another on story structure with John Yorke. Both of these helped me massively. I began to realise the obvious – I can’t tackle every aspect of this huge issue with one 20-minute audio play. But I can try my best to tell a good story, drawing on not just what I’ve learned at SOAS, but my emotional experiences of being there. If the biography I read on Steve Biko does not end up in my Tamasha audio play, perhaps something I took from it will. Nothing I’m learning is wasted, even if the material does not end up in the final piece. But I can only write a play about ‘decolonising’ as I understand and experience it.

I began to think about storytelling, how in many cultures this is how history is shared, whereas in Britain we preserve the past by making museums and filling them with artefacts.

I then thought about classic stories: Adventures, heists, thrillers. What about exploring how other cultures handle their artefacts through one of these mediums? This is how ‘The Museum’ came about. Set between a university like SOAS and a small village in Syria, it tells the story of Rima, who believes her father’s Museum was unjustly stolen by an English professor, and what she does to get it back.

After a cobbled together draft 1, I worked with Tamasha on honing the idea and creating a dramatic conflict that would translate to audio. We had discussions, redrafts, and I continued to visit SOAS and have chats with students. I was still keen to set some of the play in a university setting.

Then came the exciting bit. After a couple of months of redrafting, we gave our finished plays to Tamasha to be recorded as audio dramas by a group of talented actors. Sitting in the studio, I was thrilled to hear the story come to life. It seemed to make sense! It seemed to contain a lot of the debates I’d had about history without having to cite reams of research I’d done! It maybe even seemed to begin to explore the idea of ‘decolonising history’… but I’ll leave it to audiences to decide that.

 

Illustration by Erin Aniker

Danusia’s audio drama, The Museum, will be played to a live audience at a gathering listening event in Rich Mix, London on Wednesday 30 October. Book your tickets now. Part of Decolonising History – a Tamasha Digital Project for SOAS.

 


Decolonising History: A Student’s Perspective

Decolonising History, a Tamasha Digital project for SOAS, is a thrilling collection of audio dramas created to analyse the concept and viability of decolonisation, as well as SOAS’ history.
Through its efforts to decolonise its curriculum, as well as by contributing key voices in debates regarding the subject, SOAS has led the charge for decolonisation for a long time. However, this is also due to its past as a training college for officers of the British Empire – its own contribution towards colonialism. This series of plays challenges SOAS to look at its own past, so that it can look to the future. One student involved with Decolonising History is Indira Varma, who has just graduated with a BA in History and South Asian Studies. Here’s her experience of working with Tamasha on this project, as well as her time at SOAS.

Indira Varma

The narrative through which the South Asian diaspora has engaged with their history has often been deeply skewed and biased.

Often, the understanding is that the Empire enriched and benefited South Asia in the long term – something which a lot of Indians today believe. My own father even believes that without the British and their infrastructure, South Asian development would have been slowed by 100 years, even though there is significant proof to show that pre-colonial Indian legal and governing systems were much more diverse and advanced than their Western counterparts.

Media has also played an important role in this narrative; films like The Viceroy’s House and shows such as Indian Summer whitewash and glorify the history of the Empire to the general public, usually only providing one perspective on the matter and altering the stance many Brits take towards colonialism and the British Raj.

There is a lack of accountability and honesty in Britain’s mainstream representation of the Empire. This is why it is extremely important for the playwrights from Tamasha to bring historical debates outside of an academic setting – above all, to give an honest reflection on British rule. Being able to have engaging and insightful discussions with Satinder and Guleraana (Decolonising History writers Chohan and Mir) outside of a classroom setting was a very interesting way to gain new perspectives on South Asian history.

A desire to study a decolonised history is one of the main reasons why myself and so many other South Asians have chosen to study at an institution like SOAS. Honest about its own involvement in the histories of colonialism, SOAS has provided me with a multi-dimensional and intimate learning experience. Ranging from the variety of how history is taught to the perspectives from which history is seen, there is no other place that could have taught me about my own country in a more personal and honest way.

Only through the decolonisation of history and acceptance of Britain’s role in many atrocities committed throughout the colonial era, can there be a deeper understanding of the multifaceted and diverse South Asian subcontinent.

Illustration by Erin Aniker

The five audio dramas will be playing to a live audience at ‘gathered listening’ events in theatres and cultural spaces across the UK. Full dates and information

 


Full cast and creative team for nationwide tour of I WANNA BE YOURS 2019

We are delighted to announce the full cast and creative team for the nation-wide tour of Zia Ahmed’s I WANNA BE YOURS 2019.

 

THE WRITER: ZIA AHMED

Zia Ahmed is from north-west London. He is part of the London Laureates, having been shortlisted for London’s Young Poet Laureate 2015/16. He is a former Roundhouse Poetry Slam winner and writer in residence at Paines Plough as part of Channel 4’s Playwright Scheme. He is one of the Bush Theatre’s Emerging Writers’ Group 2018/19.

His writing and performance credits include C11 (Bush Theatre) and FRAGMENTS (Roundhouse). His poetry has featured on BBC Radio 4, DAZED and notable gigs include performing at Kate Tempest’s collection launches at the Old Vic, Hackney Arts Centre, Boiler Room x V&A, Latitude Festival and the ICA.

 

DIRECTION: ANNA HIMALI HOWARD

Anna Himali Howard is a director and theatremaker. She was Paines Plough’s Trainee Director in 2016 and is an alumnus of the Birmingham REP Foundry. She was recently the Staff Director on SMALL ISLAND at the National Theatre.

Her work as a Director includes:

A SMALL PLACE by Jamaica Kincaid (Gate Theatre); I WANNA BE YOURS by Zia Ahmed (Paines Plough/Tamasha/Rural Arts), ALBATROSS by Isley Lynn for NEW (Paines Plough/ RWCMD/Gate Theatre).

As a theatremaker, work includes:

JANE ANGER (Yard Theatre Live Drafts), MAHABHARAT/A by Anna Himali Howard and Zarina Muhammad (Camden People’s Theatre), THE BEANFIELD by Breach Theatre (New Diorama/national tour 2016).

Anna was Associate Director on FLEABAG by Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Drywrite/Soho Theatre international tour) and Assistant Director on OTHELLO, directed by Ellen McDougall (Shakespeare’s Globe) and IN THE NIGHT TIME (BEFORE THE SUN RISES) by Nina Segal, directed by Ben Kidd (Gate Theatre).

 

EMILY STOTT as ELLA

Emily trained at The Oxford School of Drama and is a founding member of the award-winning theatre company Wildcard (ELECTROLYTE, 17, AFTER PARTY)

Theatre credits include: IF NOT NOW, WHEN? (Dorfman, National Theatre); THE COMEDY ABOUT A BANK ROBBERY (Mischief Theatre/Criterion Theatre); GIFTED (Pleasance); THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY (Watermill Theatre); GLITTER PUNCH (VAULT Festival); THE KITCHEN SINK (Oldham Coliseum); INSIDE PUSSY RIOT (Les Enfants Terribles/Saatchi Gallery); PANCAKE DAY (The Bunker); EARLY DOORS (Not Too Tame/UK tour); THE SELFISH GIANT (Arcola Theatre).

TV credits include: VERA (ITV).

 

RAGEVAN VASAN as HASEEB

Television credits include: SAVE ME, FORTITUDE (Sky Atlantic); THE STATE (Channel 4); CUFFS, DOCTORS (BBC).

Film credits include: DUMBO (Disney); DAPHNE (The Bureau Film Company); WALK LIKE A PANTHER (FOX Searchlight); THE LAST WITNESS (Film Polska Productions).

Stage credits include: THE VILLAGE (Theatre Royal Stratford East); HURLING RUBBLE AT THE SUN/MOON (Park Theatre); LOVE FOR LOVE, QUEEN ANNE (Royal Shakespeare Company).

 

RACHAEL MERRY as RACHAEL

Rachael is an actor and BSL/English interpreter who is delighted to be working with Paines Plough this autumn for I WANNA BE YOURS

A member and associate artist of the DH Ensemble, she is a previous resident artist with GLYPT (Donut Worry R&D) and most recently can be seen as Ellie in DeafFest UK award winning short film AVA (Grint & Ash Collaboration).

Other credits include: Librarian in ALMOST (BSLBT/Flashing Lights Media); Evil Queen in MIRROR MIRROR (Red Earth Theatre UK Tours); Shiny in SMALL WORLD (BSLBT/Mutt & Jeff Pictures); Mrs Yellow in MR RED AND MRS YELLOW (Handprint Theatre). Rachael holds a first class degree in Theatre Arts, Education & Deaf Studies from The University of Reading and recently completed her role coordinating the youth programme for Deafinitely Theatre Company.

 

THE CREATIVE TEAM:

COMPANY STAGE MANAGER: ALICE LONGSON

Studying at Salford University, Alice gained a degree in Media Performance but was always drawn to the theatre.

Post university she headed into the Manchester Fringe scene working in various stage management roles on shows including THE TRIAL (People Zoo Productions); MOTH (Ransack Productions) and HAIR THE MUSICAL (Aria Entertainment).

With a passion for driving vans Alice went on to touring, working with Theatre Hullabaloo sharing THE BEAR AND BUTTERFLY with the UK in 2016/17.

During her time working the Manchester fringe Alice grew close connections with Hope Mill Theatre and following her tour went on to become the Technical Manager of the venue. She also supported their in-house musicals and Production Manager. She found a new passion for set building and power tools.

Onto ventures new, Alice is super excited to be hitting the road with I WANNA BE YOURS and is very proud to be part of the Paines Plough team on this project.

 

DESIGN: MYDD PHARO

Mydd is an award-winning set and costume designer, director and visual dramaturg working in theatre, live art and installation. He trained in Theatre Design at Wimbledon School of Art and Fine Art (Installation) at Falmouth College of Art.

Selected work includes:

WOLF’S CHILD (WildWorks/NNF); THE BODY (Barbican); THE PASSION (WildWorks/NTW); PARTY SKILLS FOR THE END OF THE WORLD (NNF); DREAM CITY – The Tunis Biennale of Art in Public Spaces, NABLUS: CITY OF STORIES, ONCE UPON A CASTLE – Kasteel Van Gaasbeek, THE ENCHANTED PALACE (WildWorks); ARK-IVE (National Theatre).

He is founding member, production designer and visual dramaturg for NPO company WildWorks an international site-specific theatre company specialising in large-scale outdoor promenade performances in unusual locations.

He has also designed works for Kneehigh Theatre, Punchdrunk, 14-18NOW, Royal College of Music, NYT, BAC, The Eden Project and The British Council.

 

LIGHTING: MARTHA GODFREY

Martha Godfrey is a lighting designer based in London.

Recent work includes: WHITE and GREY by Koko Brown (Ovalhouse Theatre/UK tour); PINK LEMONADE and SINCE U BEEN GONE (Queer House Productions); FUCK YOU PAY ME (The Bunker); BURY THE DEAD (Finborough Theatre); HEAR ME HOWL (Old Red Lion Theatre); PECS: THE 80S SHOW (Soho Theatre).

 

COMPOSITION & SOUND: ANNA CLOCK

Anna Clock is a composer, sound designer and cellist working across theatre, film, radio and installation.

Recent projects include: PLAYING UP and EPIC STAGES (National Youth Theatre); ARMADILLO (The Yard Theatre); FIGHTER (Stratford Circus Arts Centre); LOOKING FORWARD (Battersea Arts Centre); SOFT ANIMALS (Soho); THE BUTTERFLY LION (Barn Theatre); FATTY FAT FAT (Roundhouse/Edinburgh Festival) WORK BITCH, MISS FORTUNATE, ADMIN (VAULT Festival); TWELFTH NIGHT (Southwark Playhouse); POMONA; PUNK ROCK (New Diorama); BURY THE DEAD (Finborough Theatre); FABRIC (Soho/community spaces tour); KATIE JOHNSTONE, IN THE NIGHT TIME, [BLANK] (Orange Tree Theatre); OVEREXPOSED (V&A Museum); UNCENSORED (Theatre Royal Haymarket); SONGLINES (Edinburgh Festival/HighTide Festival/regional tour); FINDING FASSBENDER (VAULT Festival/Edinburgh Festival/HighTide Festival).

In 2018 Anna was artist in residence at SPINE Festival Borough of Harrow and Sirius Arts Centre.

Anna studied Music Composition and English Literature at Trinity College Dublin, Cello performance at the Royal Irish Academy of Music and holds an MA in Advanced Theatre Practice from Central School of Speech and Drama. They also have extensive experience as a workshop facilitator and educator, and have run workshops in schools, youth centres and community centres. They have also worked as guest lecturer and guest sound designer for third level institutions including University of Manchester, Mountview Academy, Arts Ed and Fourth Monkey.

 

ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: JANISE SADIK

Janisè Sadik is an emerging theatremaker and director. She is Paines Plough’s Trainee Director for 2019, was a part of the Young Vic Directors program, and completed the Boris Karloff Trainee Assistant Director Program in 2017. She has been a co-workshop leader at Park Theatre leading the Creative Learning Programme since 2015 directing the end of term showcase.  She has facilitated in various creative buildings such as Hoxton Hall, Lyric Hammersmith, Ovalhouse and Wimbledon College of Arts. In 2018, she set up a Youth Theatre company at We Are Spotlight working with young actors that don’t have access to training. She has worked internationally in rural parts of South India to run creative theatre projects with young children to empower and build their confidence.  She enjoys work that is experimental, devised and brings new writing to life.

Theatre credits as director include: MILK & OREOS, winner of the Pandora Award 2015, co-written by Janisè Sadik & Seraphina Beh (Melanin Box Festival); BREAKING THE INTERNET (Ovalhouse Summer School 2017); BLURRED LINES (Etcetera Theatre); US by Priscilla Lafayette Kwabi (Camden People’s Theatre); HYDRAULIC by Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu (Wimbledon College of Arts).

Assistant director credits include: ROUNDABOUT Season 2019: DAUGHTERHOOD by Charley Miles, ON THE OTHER HAND, WE’RE HAPPY by Daf James and DEXTER AND WINTER’S DETECTIVE AGENCY by Nathan Bryon (Paines Plough/Theatr Clwyd).

Film credits as director include: SHE by Andrè James.

 

MOVEMENT: JENNIFER JACKSON

Jennifer trained at East 15 and is a movement director and actor.

Movement Direction credits include: AMSTERDAM (ATC/Orange Tree/ Theatre Royal Plymouth); POPS (Jake Orr Productions); THE STRANGE UNDOING OF PRUDENCIA HART (New Vic Theatre); BE MY BABY, AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS (Leeds Playhouse); THE TRICK (Loose Tongue/Bush/High Tide); PHILOXENIA (Bush); MOUNTAINTOP UK TOUR (Desara Productions Ltd); DEATH OF A SALESMAN, QUEENS OF THE COAL AGE, OUR TOWN (Royal Exchange); PARLIAMENT SQUARE (Bush/Royal Exchange); MAYFLY, OUT OF WATER (Orange Tree Theatre); BRIGHTON ROCK (Pilot Theatre/The Lowry); ROUNDABOUT Season 2017: BLACK MOUNTAIN, HOW TO BE A KID, OUT OF LOVE (Paines Plough/Theatr Clwyd/Orange Tree Theatre); ROUNDABOUT Season 2018: ISLAND TOWN, STICKS AND STONES, HOW TO SPOT AN ALIEN (Paines Plough/Theatr Clwyd); THE MOUNTAINTOP (Young Vic); DEATH OF A SALESMAN (Royal & Derngate); THE UGLY ONE (The Park); WHY THE WHALES CAME (Southbank Centre); STONE FACE (Finborough); DEBRIS (Southwark Playhouse/Openworks Theatre); MACBETH (Passion in Practice/Sam Wanamaker Playhouse); SILENT PLANET (Finborough); PERICLES (Berwaldhallen); THE FUTURE (The Yard/Company Three); OTHER-PLEASE SPECIFY, ATOMS (Company Three); TAKEOVER 2017 (Kiln Theatre).

Assistant Movement Director credits include: ROUNDABOUT Season 2014: LUNGS, THE INITIATE, MY TEACHER’S A TROLL (Paines Plough/Sheffield Theatres).

 

I WANNA BE YOURS will tour as follows:

 

6 – 19 October: The Albany Canada Water Hub, Canada Water

21 October: Studio 3 Arts, Barking

22 October: Luton Culture, Luton

24 October: Rosehill Theatre, Whitehaven

25 October: Unity Theatre, Liverpool

28 October: Marine Theatre, Lyme Regis

29 October: Ventnor Exchange, Ventnor

30 October – The Old Market, Brighton

31 October – South Hill Park, Bracknell

01 November: Trestle Arts Centre, St Albans

02 November: The Spring Arts & Heritage Centre, Havant

04 November: The Key Theatre, Peterborough

05 November: The Marlowe, Canterbury

06 November: Phoenix Theatre and Arts Centre, Bordon

07 November: Trinity Theatre, Tunbridge Wells

08 November: Electric Theatre, Guildford

11 November: Octagon Theatre, Bolton

12 November: Middlesbrough Theatre, Middlesbrough

13 November: The Mill Arts Centre, Banbury

14 November: Artrix, Bromsgrove

15 November: Derby Theatre, Derby

16 November: East Riding Theatre, Beverley

19 November: CAST, Doncaster

20 November: Norden Farm, Maidenhead

21 November: The Garage, Norwich

22 November: Lincoln Performing Arts Centre, Lincoln

23 November: The Edge, Manchester

26 November: Preston Continental

27 November: Arts Centre Washington

28 November: Selby Town Hall, Selby

29 November: Square Chapel, Halifax

30 November: The Maltings, Berwick-upon-Tweed


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