Dermot Daly – Associate Director’s Blog – Part Two
In this short blog I’d like to focus on stories, communities and the existential, ‘why?’.
BD Stories has travelled around Bradford, to places that aren’t normally associated with theatre. We started the tour in the Westend, well the Westend community centre. If you’ve not been to the centre let me paint you a picture – imagine the most beautiful stained glass window you’ve ever seen in a church building that is almost hidden away; imagine a computer learning suite, training and upskilling interested members of the community; imagine a place where people make the most glorious soup known to man; imagine a place which almost feels like home – minus Netflix: if you can imagine that then you’re almost there.
As we arrived we were offered a brew and a lunch order was taken – we weren’t aware that the lunch was being made in the kitchen by users of the centre and our lunchtime wasn’t going to be in seclusion but with the very people that were to form our audience. Some of the stories that were shared and the laughter that rang out over lunch are things that have been replicated at many of the places that we have been to. One of the absolute joys of this tour has been being part of that.
Aina J Khan’s Pashto Thriller is set in Bradford, in the 1980’s and features the music of Michael Jackson – hence Thriller – and, importantly, has dialogue that is in Pashto, a language spoken by only 58 million people worldwide. When you consider that we share this planet with around 7.7 billion people that means that only 0.08% of us all speak the language.
We did a schools performance and there was a young lady from a local school who spent the vast majority of the show translating, with some delight, the Pashto passages to her friends. In the question and answer session after the show, I asked her how she felt to see and hear a language that she hears at home on a stage – she responded in a word: “Proud”. Proud that her heritage was on a stage. Proud that she could see her family, hear her family, in those characters. Proud that she felt recognised. That response is one of the main reasons that I make theatre and tell stories and one of the biggest strengths of taking theatre out of the theatre building and to the people.
To feel validated and recognised as a person, especially in the current political climate, feels almost like a rebellious act. Telling stories – oral history – make that happen. Seeing yourself on stage ferments that. Seeing those stories in familiar surroundings facilitates a feeling of home, that these stories are yours. Let’s ensure that community theatre and community tours continue in order to keep that positive rebellion going – who knows, if we all feel that we have a stake in our lives and our representation then maybe the dominant narratives will be enriched, broadened and become truly inclusive. Proud.