Iskandar R. Sharazuddin’s Silently Hoping taps into the topic of ‘duality’ – being of mixed raced heritage and questioning cultural identity. The concept of identity is a complex one, something that will continually be explored within wider conversations. Drawing from his Southeast Asian-British identity, Iskander looks to explore this crucial topic. Ahead of Silently Hoping‘s run at this year’s Vault festival, Iskander talks to us about his approach towards creating the show, working with director Mingyu Lin and the show’s plans beyond Vault festival.
Hi Iskandar, you’re currently writing Silently Hoping which will take part in this year’s Vault Festival from the 20thto 24th How are you feeling ahead of the show?
I am feeling very nervous about sharing this play. It is deeply personal, and it is the first time I have shared anything of this nature in my theatre work. It is a departure from my usual style of writing, I tend to use a lot of metaphor, physical storytelling, and visual language. This play is a contrast because it is a lot quieter and softer with scenes of naturalism.
Silently Hoping explores themes of cultural identity and duality. What inspired you to create a piece exploring these themes?
I am a mixed-race Southeast Asian-British person. I am very much writing about a personal experience with a cultural and religious identity.
How did you approach writing the show?
The work began as a 20-minute short. The characters felt compelling and interesting enough that I wanted to know more about them. I began to look at where they had come from and where they were going to and that prompted me to write a longer piece.
I am a prolific at redrafting, so I rewrote the play a number of times with back and forth from Ming, my director. We then had a read with actors to develop the ideas and refine the narrative even more. It has been a long process and it is still very much ongoing, there has been a lot that has been cut from this play that we hope to put back in for a season or run elsewhere. The play growing.
How have you worked with director Mingyu Lin to create the show?
Ming has been a huge support for the piece. She has read every draft as well as new scenes and small edits. Every step of the way Ming has been integral to the decisions of how the structure of the play has evolved and what story we’re trying to tell. The key to any good working relationship is trust and it has been easy to trust Ming with this work as it touches upon things that are a shared experience for us. This is something we connected on and we very much found we were on the same page about some of the bigger themes associated with race and representation in the work. I can’t envision working with anyone else on this piece, it very much feels like our play not just mine.
What can audiences expect from the show?
Silently Hoping is not full of laughs (although there are moments of humour) nor does it have loud theatrical moments. It is a quiet play that is drawn out over decades of time. It is the examination of one woman’s journey to discover a cultural and religious identity and how that process can take a lifetime. It is sad. It is about struggle and feeling like a stranger in your own home. It is about conflict with a faith system and your way of living. But, the end is hopeful. I think.
What would you like for audiences to take away from the show?
I want audiences to walk away considering what a mixed-race experience can feel like. I want them to understand that sometimes the language we use and the things we say can have huge impact on other people and that those impacts can last for a long, long time.
Are there any plans to perform the show beyond the Vault Festival?
Yes, we’ll be performing the work at Applecart Arts with support from the venue in May this year. We’re very excited as this will likely be a longer version of the show and we’re going to pair it with a community engagement project of working with local youths in Newham to develop a piece of youth theatre that is also about the themes of identity.
Questions by Lucy Basaba.
Silently Hoping is currently showing until Sunday 24th February 2019 as part of this year’s Vault Festival. To find out more about the production, visit here…