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International Plays – Kali: Stirring voices…

International Plays – Kali: Stirring  voices…

For over thirty years, Kali theatre company has been nurturing the talents of South Asian women playwrights and they are about to present a festival of plays with global themes…

By Suman Bhuchar

TAKING place at Tara Theatre in London from March 28 to April 1, this is a week of script in hand performances of five new plays with thought provoking global themes ranging from activism, to the refuge crisis, cancel culture, colonial histories and political legacies.
“We’re thrilled to be producing a third Festival season of new plays following the inaugural WAR Plays in 2018 and then HOME Plays in 2021 – this is an exciting opportunity for our writers to connect with pressing global concerns that interest them,” said Helena Bell, Kali artistic director.
“Their work has emerged as topical and urgent and also often uniquely reflective of each writer’s individual heritage.”
The writers are Atiha Sen Gupta, Gayathiri Kamalakanthan, Deepika Arwind, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti and Bettina Gracias.
They selected their directors and along with dramaturgs worked over a nine-month period to craft their ideas and now share them with a wider audience.


Atiha Sen Gupta

Sen Gupta is a writer who is more interested in “those who stitched the red carpet then those who stand on it”. She wrote her first play ‘What Fatima Did’ for Hampstead Theatre in 2009. It explored identity and multiculturalism when a young Muslim girl decides to wear a hijab on her 18th birthday.
Her second play, ‘State Red’ (2014), also for Hampstead looked at the shooting of a young black man by the police, while ‘Counting Stars’, for Theatre Royal Stratford East 2016, was about two young black toilet attendants working in a night club loo. Her latest piece, ‘Goldilocks’ is about “an anonymous female from far away seeking asylum” and is directed by Bell.

Period Parrrty

Gayathiri Kamalakanthan by Michael Boffe

Kamalakanthan is a Tamil writer and sex educator. They are interested in how language shapes childhood and how we use it to queer the future. Gayathiri co-authored ‘Sex Ed: An Inclusive Teenage Guide to Sex and Relationships’. The poet and mentor founded Inclusive Tamil Arts in 2020 as a “community space to create and celebrate trans & queer Tamil arts and culture”. They will be presenting their debut play, ‘Period Parrty’. They have been developing this play with Kali and it was part of the company’s Discovery Programme in Spring 2022. It will be directed by Gitika Buttoo, who as staff director at the National Theatre, worked on ‘The Father and The Assassin’.


Deepika Arwind by Aparna Nori

Arwind is a performer and playwright from Bangalore, India. She runs the Lost Post Initiative theatre collective. She is currently a playwright-in-residence for the Welt/Buehne (World /Stage) season at the Residenztheater in Munich. She will also be a fellow at the Akademie Schloss Solitude through most of 2023. She is also the author of a book for young people, ‘Sarayu’ (Le Cosmographe Editions, France).
Arwind’s work has centred the female body on stage and off, and she continues to expand her practice in pursuit of form that is both inventive and autonomous, working closely with sound and movement.
Phantasmagoria’ (shortlisted for The Hindu {newspaper’s} playwriting award in 2019 – uses magic realism and naturalism where two women are invited by a journalist to discuss differing political ideologies in a sober manner.
At first the women chit chat politely, but then as the weather changes outside so too does their conversation – cutting through the politesse to hate speech. Apart from commenting on the increasingly right wing politics in any given societies, the writer is also exploring the impact of the natural world on our emotions.
Phantasmagoria’ is directed by Jo Tyabji an associate artist of Milk Presents a theatre company based in Derby.

The House of Harbinder Kaur

Gurpeet Kaur Bhatti writes for stage, screen and radio. Her first play ‘Behsharam’ (2001), broke box office records at Soho/The Rep. Her second play ‘Behzti’ (2004) was sensationally closed after protests and won the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize in 2005.
Bhatti has written for the Royal Court and her play, ‘A Kind of People’ (2019) was covered by as was ‘Dishoom’ produced by Rifco theatre and presented at Watford Palace in 2018. (See links below)
Bhatti presents ‘The House of Harbinder Kaur’, a retelling of the Lorca classic, ‘The House of Bernada Alba’, relocated into the political turmoil of 1984 Punjab, during a hot, sweaty summer where terror and unrest roam the streets. It is directed by Poonam Brah, who recently did ‘Noor’ for Kali.

The Coconut House

Bettina Gracias

The final play of the festival is by Bettina Gracias a writer, who has worked with Kali Theatre before and her plays include ‘Singh Tangos’ (2002) and ‘Gandhi and Coconuts’ (2010). Her new play, ‘The Coconut House’ is directed by Natasha Kathi-Chandra (artistic associate at Tara Theatre), and is a dark comedy set in Goa about the secrets people keep and what happens when the past and the present come together.
Kali Theatre is a National Portfolio Organisation receiving £200,116 of regular funding from the Arts Council England. It is a modest amount and it produces excellent work by supporting writers. The company also now commissions all its shows from their Festival programme.

All the work is extremely high quality, Bell said.
“We actively seek industry partners and co-producers. The main objective for this programme is to get the work on and get our wonderful writers seen and heard! “

International Plays – Tara Theatre, 356 Garratt Lane, Earlsfield, London SW18 4ES (8 mins from Waterloo mainline station).
All but one of the plays begins at 7pm and are of varying duration.

Box Office 020 8333 4457
Book online
£10 (£8 concessions)
All plays recommended for ages 16+

Tuesday March 28
‘Goldilocks’ by Atiha Sen Gupta, directed by Helena Bell followed by a Q&A

Wednesday March 29
‘Period Parrty’ by Gayathiri Kamalakanthan, directed by Gitika Buttoo

Thursday March 30
‘Phantasmagoria’ by Deepika Arwind, directed by Jo Tyabji

Friday March 31
‘The house of Harbinder Kaur’ by Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, directed by Poonam Brah

Saturday April 1 4.30pm
‘The Coconut House’ by Bettina Gracias, directed by Natasha Kathi-Chandra


Dishoom –

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture