In February of this year three regular school girls left Bethnal Green Academy to travel to Syria and join ISIS. As part of the National Youth Theatre’s 2015 season director Nadia Latif (Carrot, Even Stillness Breathes Softly Against A Brick Wall) and playwright Omar El-Khairy (The Keepers of Infinite Space, Sour Lips) have responded, creating a brand new site specific promenade production exploring the implications of radicalism and extremism on the people and communities behind the headlines.
The world premiere of the site specific show will take place inside Swiss Cottage’s UCL Academy with a cast of 112, one of the biggest in London this year. Homegrown, in part a verbatim piece, will feature interviews with members of the Bethnal Green community amoungst others.
On the production’s inception and creation Latif and El-Khairy said: “We had a number of reservations about making ‘a play about British Muslims going to join ISIS’. For so long, we had both resisted playing along with games of identity politics. So when the opportunity to do Homegrown came up we felt to give ourselves fully and honestly to this piece we had to try to redefine the terms on which it was to be made. Homegrown isn’t For Us By Us. The drive behind the production is to create a piece of theatre which unsettles preconceived ideas people come with to this subject matter.
We don’t have an agenda, or seek to offer a solution but we hope that audiences will leave the piece feeling something within them shift. The opportunity to work alongside so many young people to create this piece and to be able to put the production on inside a working school has been fundamental to it’s development. Consequently the poltics of Homegrown can be found in its form as much as any message it may hold in regards to Islamic extremism, radicalisation or Islamophobia.
The NYT is also to return to the Ambassadors Theatre in London’s West End later this year with three new productions, one of them documented in development as part of a new collaboration with Sky Arts. The 10-week rep season will feature: Consensual – a brand new play about consent and sex education; Wuthering Heights, in a new adaptation of Emily Brontë’s novel and The Merchant of Venice -Shakespeare’s play abridged especially for schools by Tom Stoppard. Performanceswill start on 18 September 2015, with press performances on 6 and 7 October 2015.
Omar El-Khairy is a writer for theatre and television. He was recently awarded the 2013 Leverhulme Associate Playwright award at the Bush Theatre and his most recent play The Keepers of Infinite Space premiered at the Park Theatre in 2014. Other theatre credits include: Return to Sender (Orange Tree Theatre), Sour Lips (Oval House), Soundbites (The Lyric, Hammersmith), Eyelids (Unicorn Theatre), Longitude (Public Theater, New York), Given the Times (Finborough Theatre), The Ark (Arcola Theatre) and Writer X (Soho Theatre).
Nadia Latif was Associate director for Theatre503, during which she directed various productions including Carrot at Latitude Festival, Wild Horses and Slaves. Other directing credits include: Even Stillness Breathes Softly Against A Brick Wall (Soho Theatre), but i cd only whisper (Arcola) and Hand Me Down (Almeida Theatre Projects). Nadia was also assistant director for Decades, directed by Rupert Goold. This September she will be directing Octagon at the Arcola.
More information at www.nyt.org.uk
Photo: Helen Maybanks