Black and Asian Plays
A play collection with an introduction by Afia Nkrumah and bibliography by Susan Croft
Featuring five works by prominent Black and Asian playwrights.
Harvest by Manjula Padmanabhan |Made in England by Parv Bancil |Brother to Brother by Michael McMillan| Calcutta Kosher by Shelley Silas| Under Their Influence by Wayne Buchanan
These five plays in this collection each give us a glimpse of a different world – from the poverty of a Bombay tenement in Harvest by Manjula Padmanabhan to the world of rock and pop in Made in England by Parv Bancil, from the fading grandeur of former wealth in Calcutta Kosher by Shelley Silas to the inside of a mental institution in Under their Influence by Wayne Buchanan and many voices collide in the tales from the city in Brother to Brother by Michael McMillan.
Some of these plays have been commended by critics and won awards, going on tour nationally. A few have been broadcast or adapted for film. By publishing these texts, we aim to inspire further productions, perhaps in venues where little or no work by black and Asian writers has previously been performed.
In addition, the book includes a unique list of published plays by black and Asian writers, compiled by Susan Croft, so that those looking for plays to study or perform can access the considerable body of work that now exists in libraries, bookshops and archives.
Harvest by Manjula Padmanabhan: An Onassis Award Winning satirical play about the trade in human organs from the Third World to the West. Performed in colleges and universities, it demonstrates the powerful effect of globalisation on individuals.
Made in England by Parv Bancil: This Time Out Critics’ Choice Award play is about losing your cultural identity as the price of success.
Brother to Brother by Michael McMillan: Exploring the experience of being black and male in Britain.
Calcutta Kosher by Shelley Silas: Set in the Indian Jewish Community in Calcutta, a family secret is revealed. This play was broadcast on BBC Radio 4, and was Pick of the Day at The Sunday Times.
Under their Influence by Wayne Buchanan: This Time Out Critics’ Choice raises questions about the way black people are perceived and treated in the mental health system, as featured on BBC TV’s Newsnight.
About the authors
Manjula Padmanabhan is a writer and artist who has illustrated many books for children. Harvest has been published in Greece, the UK and the USA.
Parv Bancil was born in Tanzania and came to England two years later to settle in Hounslow. He left school at sixteen and became a DJ. After a stint in a suntan lotion factory, he got his first job in theatre as the stage manager for Hac Theatre. When the company ran into difficulties, Bancil and a couple of actors took over and produced their own work. He co-wrote his first play with Ravinder Gill, Curse of the Dead Dog. The play focused on British Asian experiences, which soon became the company’s agenda and the driving force behind Bancil’s work. He won the Young Playwrights Festival for BBC Radio 4 in 1991 and completed a residency at the Royal Court in 1996. His plays include How’s Your Skull? Does it Fit?, Kings and Bad Company for Hac Theatre, Bloodline for Tara Arts, The Brotherhood for Yehlellah Theatre, Ungrateful Dead for Watermans, Nadir for BBC radio 4, Jago (Get Real) for Peshkar Theatre and Crazyhorse for Paines Plough and Tara Arts.
Michael McMillan is a British playwright, artist/curator and educator, born in England to parents who were migrants from St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG). As an academic, he focuses his research on “the creative process, ethnography, oral histories, material culture and performativity”. He is the author of several plays, and as an artist is best known for his first installation, The West Indian Front Room, which was exhibited with great success in 2005, attracting more than 35,000 visitors in its initial outing at the Geffrye Museum, and going on to inspire a BBC 4 documentary called Tales from the Front Room (2007), a website a 2009 book, The Front Room: Migrant Aesthetics in the Home, and various international commissions, such as Van Huis Uit: The Living Room of Migrants in the Netherlands (Imagine IC, Amsterdam, and Netherlands Tour, 2007–08) and A Living Room Surrounded by Salt (IBB, Curaçao, 2008). A more recent installation of the Walter Rodney Bookshop featured as part of the 2015 exhibition No Colour Bar at the Guildhall Art Gallery. He has BA in Sociology from Sussex University, a MA in Independent Film & Video from Central St. Martins School of Art. From 2000, he was a Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at the London College of Communication and went on to become, since 2003, a Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at the University of the Arts London (UAL), and a researcher and Associate Lecturer at the London College of Fashion (LCF), teaching predominantly Cultural & Historical Studies. He was awarded a practice-based Arts Doctorate from Middlesex University in 2010. In 2010–11, he was Arts in Health & Well Being artist-in-residence in North Wales.
Shelley Silas is an award-winning playwright and a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4. Shelley was a winner in the ICA’s 1996 New Blood fiction competition with her short story Via Calcutta. She has now been commissioned to write sketches for So What if I am and the A-Z Show, both for BBC Radio 4. Calcutta Kosher, had a rehearsed reading with Tara Arts in 1998 and was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in August 2000. Shrapnel, her second play, was produced at the Battersea Arts Centre in 1999 by The Steam Industry. Her short story, The Suit with the Silk Purple Lining, is published by Diva Books. In 2002, she won a Pearson award and was writer-in-residence at London’s Bush Theatre. Her stage plays are published by Oberon. She has also compiled and edited an anthology of short stories, 12 Days, published by Virago Press.
Wayne Buchanan trained as an actor at Oval House Youth Theatre. His theatre credits include: Bitter and Twisted, Zumbi, and Temporary Rupture (Black Theatre Co-op), Nine Night (Umoja), Foxtrot in the Sand (African People’s Theatre) and Two (Oval House). His writing credits are: Vengeance staged in 1998, nominated for an EMMA Award and voted best play of 1998 by The New Nation newspaper. His second play Under Their Influence was first staged in May 2000 at Oval House Theatre and received Time Out Critics’ Choice. He is one of the founders of Kushite Theatre Company.