This year has brought to the surface many inequalities – highlighting the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on particular communities. Based on his own personal experience of his family working on the frontline during the crisis, writer Kamal Kaan looks to explore the impact of this devastating year in his play Us, (Post 23/3), highlighting its impact within the British Asian community. Ahead of the show’s debut at Knaïve Theatre’s A Digital Lyceum platform, Kamal tells us more about the show.
Hi Kamal, your show Us, (Post 23/3) will play as part of Knaïve Theatre’s inaugural’A Digital Lyceum’ season. How are you feeling ahead of the showing?
It feels like someone has given me a present and I’m just too excited to open it! I’m so excited to be working with the wonderful Knaive Theatre and the most amazing stellar cast of actors from stage and screen.
Us, (Post 23/3) explores the disproportionate effect that COVID-19 has had on the British Asian community through the turmoil it inflicts on a family of frontline workers; revealing increasing layers of anxiety, structural racism and inequality. Why was it important for you to explore these issues further?
This story is based on my family who are all front line workers and have been working continuously since the 23rdMarch when the first lockdown was announced. I come from a family of nine, and each of us, in our respective fields have had to deal with a lot more then just what our jobs required and provoked questions about identity, the state of the nation and how we move forward as country. (You’ll have to watch the play to see what the characters in the story have had to deal with – hah!)
How have you found exploring these topics further within your work? Have you learned anything new from the process?
This has been a rather unusual process for me that began with the brief by Tyrrell Jones of Knaïve Theatre to write a play for Zoom. I’m sure we have all experienced the platform to connect and there have been several online broadcasts. However, the play then breaks form and the technology is then utilised to discover more theatrical ways to use the medium. The writing process also was unusual. It began with interviewing my own family members and using those stories as the foundation of the drama. It was then my job as a writer to create a narrative that was part-fiction, part non-fiction in a seamless and beautiful way.
We’ve witnessed theatre become a lot more digital, with shows now staged on online platforms. What has the process with cinematographer Luca Rudlin involved?
It was great being able to work with cinematographer Luca Rudlin. This is very unusual for a ‘theatre production’. However, Luca has created an extraordinary world to capture the shift in stylistic form. Knowing that the performance would be for screen rather then stage, I then formed the drama more like an episode of television and Luca’s direction on this will give this a more cinematic feel.
Directed by Tyrell Jones and dramaturgy by Sam Redway, with the cast including Bhavna Limbachia, Peter Singh, Krupa Pattani, Darren Kuppan and Shakara Rose Carter. How have you all worked together to realise the show? What has the rehearsal process involved?
I am SO THRILLED that we have the most amazing cast. Tyrrell has done a fantastic job directing and Sam was instrumental with his dramaturgical support. Due to the hybrid nature of the show, I was keen to work with a mix of stage and screen talent. Darren Kuppan played the lead in my BBC Radio 4 drama ‘Breaking Up With Bradford’ and Bhavna Limbachia then played the lead in my next BBC Radio 4 drama ‘Father’s Land In Mother tongue’ – which is still available on BBC Iplayer. I have also worked with Krupa Pattani on the upcoming feature film ‘Ali and Ava’ by the award winning director, Clio Barnard. I have also worked with Shakara Rose Carter and have been a fan of Peter Singh’s work for years and was thrilled to have him on board also. Rehearsals have been very intense and of course all online, which has made it easier to work with a wider pool of performers being beamed in from their houses in Glasgow, Manchester, Bradford, Leeds, London. This is only possible thanks to Zoom!
What can audiences expect from the show?
The audiences are in for a thrilling ride! The story has plenty of humour, pathos and warmth. It will be unlike anything else they have seen thus far, as the play will be performed live and the audience get to watch show in real time – like they were in a theatre. Most online shows have all been pre-recorded, but the live nature of this, makes it as thrilling and as unpredictable as a live stage show!
What would you like for audiences to take away from the show?
I would hope that audiences are able to connect with the characters and really get to understand and witness the lives and stories of these people. I also hope it generates an excitement – very much like a television show – this is the first part of a two part show; the second act/second episode will pick up the lives of these characters post lockdown… Watch this space…
Questions by Lucy Basaba.
The performances will be live streamed at 7.30pm on 10, 11, 12 December.
Following the performance on 12 December, audiences are able to join a post-show discussion with Kamal Kaan and the cast and crew. A Zoom link for the discussion is sent with tickets for the show.
Tickets for each performance are available from here…
To find out more about Knaïve Theatre presents: A Digital Lyceum, visit here…