Leading theatre company’s annual talent showcase and a new play about relationships, ambition and motherhood find artistic director Helena Bell in fine fettle…
AN EXCITING season of new plays is about to hit London and perhaps we are going to discover a writer of the future.
Yes, Kali Talkback is back. A yearly initiative, the Asian women’s writing company has six new plays and new playwrights to introduce to the world. It’s the culmination of a nine-month training period, walking through new writers from the loneliness of a blank page to performed readings in front of a packed small theatre.
Kali has also a new play running simultaneously and one that on the face of it looks intriguing and different.
‘Bitched’ by Sharon Raizada is described as “biting” and a play about parenting, sex and power. Now, it’s not often we hear those three words used together or in conjunction.
‘Bitched’ is very much in the Kali mould, written by an Asian woman, challenging and thought-provoking and from a group probably a bit underrepresented in the theatre world – young mothers.
We caught up with Kali artistic director Helena Bell to talk about the season coming up.
www.asianculturevulture.com (acv): Are there any discernible themes behind this year’s Talkback Series?
Helena Bell (HB): Not really. This year in Talkback we have six plays being showcased.
Themes range from elephant trafficking in Sri Lanka to sweatshops in 1990s UK to the current gentrification of Brixton to how best to care for elderly people, plus a couple of love stories thrown in for good measure, so not in the least bit predictable thematically although they all share a contemporary sensibility.
ACV: Do you think the voice of Asian women is changing? Is it more assertive and confident?
HB: Over the 25 years or so I’ve had an association with the company there are now many more women writing and yes – the writing is much more confident.
I think as women have gradually peopled the workplace they feel more entitled to have a voice and to feel they can assert themselves although this is by no means still equal in any way and some of our plays address this. Our current show ‘Bitched’ opening at Tristan Bates Theatre this week is an example of this.
ACV: What sort of plays are women penning, is there much comedy…?
HB: There’s less comedy per se, though many plays will have humorous characters and situations but out and out comedies are rare. Yes the big subjects are there but I don’t think that’s distinctively South Asian or female but more about the prevailing human condition something that any playwright might tackle. Some playwrights are now tackling themes of international terrorism which is a new development.
ACV: All your plays are from new writers, what about the actors, are many of them getting their first break too?
HB: Yes, we love to give breaks to actors but our primary responsibility is to our writers and so actors who have a passion for new writing and experience of working with writers plus a sensitivity to the complexities and demands of developing new work is at the forefront of our casting thinking.
ACV: And what of the future?
HB: From 2018 we will be inviting young directors to work on a series of new plays via new writing hubs at Birmingham, Leicester and London so that’s another way in which Kali will input into training and creating new opportunities for emerging South Asian women directors.
Also watch out for our 2018 new production – ‘Sundowning’ by Nessah Muthy (a rising star in the new writing world) whose provocative and chilling new play about criminality, dementia and the family will be touring nationally next year (It can be seen in the Talkback series but Murthy is not a new playwright).
Listing: Please check Kali website for precise details
Six plays October 30-November 11
‘I go home now’ by Wersha Bharadwa; ‘Peace Dove’ by Fahima Sahabdeen; ‘Wisdom Teeth’ by Shyam Bhatt; ‘Home and Everything in between’ by Nicole Latchana; ‘Unmade’ by Salma Lyons; ‘Sundowning’ by Nessah Muthy, ‘Monkey Man’ by Aileen Gonsalves
‘Bitched’ until November 11
More here and Info & tickets: http://www.kalitheatre.co.uk/whats-on/Bitched.html
All at Tristan Bates Theatre, 1A Tower St London WC2H 9NP
Five mins walk from Leicester Square underground
Box Office 020 3841 6611