I’ve always wanted to write a two hander (a play with two characters) and had these two characters in my head from the play ‘RUNNING’ that I wrote more than 20 years ago as part of a Aajkal Theatre production (It’s our 25th anniversary this year – so watch this space). This particular scene involved a young Pakistani man in a girls toilets in a school chatting to his girlfriend who he assumes is in a cubicle but has evaded him. The young man is called Tariq and the young woman Nighat and that scene was one of my favourites esp as we had to actually build a toilet cubicle on stage when we performed it at Abraham Moss Theatre in 1991! The actor Shahid Ahmed (28 Weeks Later, Syriana, Yasmin) was in that play and played the character of Tariq the Pakistani wide boy from Cheetham Hill.
Some characters never leave you and neither do certain plays. A few years earlier I’d watched a play called ‘SOUL NIGHT’ by Tunde Ikoli. It was a simple two hander involving a black and white couple in a toilet of a nightclub with the DJ and the sound system in the background. It made an impact on me as from a simple situation Tunde carved out a whole world of missed chances and regrets. When it came to writing that scene in 1991 I’m sure the way he set the whole play in a lavatory came to mind. Now in 2014 as I write ‘RUKHSATI’ the Aajkal play and the characters come to mind. I wanted to find out what happened to Nighat and Tariq – did it work out for them? Were they happy and content and what has changed. By revisiting all this I’m revisiting myself and my history and those days of bhangra all dayers and illicit couplings. I’m also back in the khazi with this play being set in disused toilets above an old wedding/Shaadi hall.
‘RUKHSATI’ is about a young woman who didn’t leave her parent’s house on her wedding day. It’s about a young man who made a decision to leave the country when the going got tough. It’s also about two middle-aged people who struggle to come to terms about the decisions they have made and whether by revisiting them they can find new hope. A subversively sweet two hander about love, life and lotas.
I’m hoping to get it staged so all us 40 something’s can wallow in nostalgia and whilst it will make more sense to those who are South Asian and Desi I think there’s enough there for everybody. I’m also conscious that I wanted to write two meaty parts that actors would enjoy getting their teeth into. The fact that both are Pakistani is important to me as I don’t see us being treated as multi dimensional human beings in the media and it’s not the greatest time to be a Muslim either.
The writing is still raw but has my darkly comic style and will need developing but if I get my brother Shahid into a rehearsal space and find a Nighat then we can do this and get this shit out.
Let me know if you want a read of a draft. Getting close to finishing it – I write plays fast and its taken me about a month to complete what is looking like a one act play. I think I’m at my happiest when I’m writing as I inhabit the world of the characters I create and it’s a release from the normal bollocks of life. From 1989 to 1993 I also deejayed in clubs and played at bhangra gigs so those times are close to my heart. Catching up with my bro Tariq and sister Nighat has been a bit of a emotional rollercoaster but have loved every minute. I just hope you’ll love it too.