Izzy from our Youth Advisory Board (YAB), meets other members to read and reflect on plays by diverse playwrights, to continue conversations around diversifying the curriculum.
One thing that I love most about theatre is its ability to take you on all sorts of journeys, letting you delve into the wonderful creations of writers and learn more about the world and yourself. That is why I was so excited when I heard about the play reading group, exploring the incredible works of culturally diverse playwrights. I was very keen to discover new writing that I may not have come across before and to learn from writers whose experiences were different from my own.
I’ve always enjoyed reading a range of plays from different periods (which it seems is a requirement of the English curriculum): glimpses into the past show us “we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us" (Jo Cox, MP). It has bothered me for some time, however, that more focus is given to historical literature than current literature from diverse cultures.
One aspect of theatre that I admire is the fact that it is for everyone from anywhere, which is why I strongly believe that it is important to try and install diversity into the curriculum, so that everyone feels they are reflected in the texts that they have to study.
We started reading 1984 by Satinder Chohan, which brought to life the shocking experiences of a Sikh family living in Southall at the time of the massacre in Punjab.
The writer brilliantly juxtaposes George Orwell’s dystopian novel with the real lived experience of Sikh families living with the hostile nature of the National Front.
This play was really interesting, as it enabled us to take a glimpse into the life of a family feeling out of place in the country they are living in, and feeling estranged from their cultural heritage, where conflict between generations also provides a feeling of distance.
In Hannah Khalil’s Scenes From 73* Years, we are presented with many different scenes and stories of different characters, who manage to clearly represent the experiences and lives of many people living in and from Palestine over 73 years.
The writer doesn’t allow you to try and step inside the mind of the characters created for us - the characters remain nameless throughout the play, and are simply called names such as ‘woman 1'. This emphasizes the fact that so many people would’ve had to go through the same experiences, and the same feelings of a loss of identity. It creates the uncomfortable and sad feeling that the nameless identity is all that they are or possibly feel they are, but also gives the many people who have had the same experiences a voice, allowing an identity to be found.
The stories we have shared over these sessions have been shocking and enlightening, and though my life is far removed from the experiences of the characters in the plays, the human emotions and the relationships portrayed are universal. I am really looking forward to the next sessions.