By Sharon Raizada
Oval House, London
Naz disturbs Rose dancing on the roof of a Mayfair mansion at 3am.
He's fixing a satellite dish. She's escaping her rich stepdad’s party.
She's in Paul Smith and expensive headscarf. He's in low-slung jeans and a hoodie.
He's Bengali. She’s an English Rose.
Rose has a secret. Naz has to pay a family debt in the morning.
Both need out by morning.
Rose makes a desperate proposition to Naz... Murder.
As the sun rises over London, clothes are shed and the truth exposed. Knife-crime, the pressures of youth and love on the edge are explored in this compelling, unconventional romance at the dark heart of London.
'The play takes two very different worlds from within London and makes them collide on a roof high over the city. It’s a clash between the working class Bangladeshi community of East London and the moneyed elite white class of Mayfair.
There is also a clash between kids and adults. The play deals the pressures and powerlessness of kids who may feel they must carry a knife, and how the weaknesses of adults can cripple their children. Although Naz brings the knife on the roof, the person wielding it at the end is not who you expect. The play looks at the extremes people will go to in order to protect their patch and their way of life from what they see as threat, particularly the imagined Muslim ‘threat’ in London today.
The play explores the the Muslim hijab and its covering up of the body. By reversing the notion of the hijab and applying the idea of covering up to a privileged white girl I’m hoping to show that the restrictions that we stereotypically associate with Islam can equally apply to upper middle class white girls. They may be under equal pressure to conform to their family’s ideas of how they should behave and whom they should be with. Everyone, from every culture, has ‘acceptable’ codes of behaviour and it is easier for all of us if we stay within our limits. But there are great possibilities if we don’t.
Black-i looks at the interaction of races in contemporary London and the stresses and pressures on kids today, but first and foremost it is at heart a weird love story between an Asian boy and white girl with characters we care about, set on a Mayfair roof at night. With knives.
Black-i was developed through Giving Voice, Kali’s New Writer Development Programme.
Black-i is Sharon Raizada’s first full length play. It was developed through Kali’s Writer Development Programme and given a rehearsed reading at Kali’s Talk Back Festival at Rich Mix, London in May 2009. Sharon’s work includes After (Hampstead Theatre, February 2010, Angle Theatre at Start Night) and Lady Play (BBC Radio 4).
Black–i is directed by Poonam Brah whose theatre includes: LOTUS BEAUTY (Gate Theatre) YOUNG AMERICA (Northampton Theatres) DOUBLEDUTCH (Tristan Bates) UNZIPPED (Maria Theatre, Young Vic) DARING PARINGS (Hampstead Theatre)TORN (Hackney Empire) BORDERLINES (Royal Court) A SORT OF HOMECOMING (Birmingham Rep) and BELLS (Southwark Playhouse and UK Tour). Poonam was an artistic associate at Theatre Royal Stratford East, has directed for the new writing programme at Soho Theatre, Kali Theatre’s New Writing Festivals and for the Royal Court International Residency. 3Fates is her new theatre company.
‘Poonam Brah’s skilfully directed staging draws a distinct parallel between the ceremony of religion and of sleazy seduction...’
The Times on Bells
Presented In association with 3Fates
Photos by Alice Hoult, Robert Day, Lilly Bertrand-Webb, Robert Workman