Six Plays by Black and Asian Women Writers
Edited and Introduced by Kadija George
Essays and contributions by Valerie Small and Deirdre Osborne
Revised Edition, 2005
Rukhsana Ahmad, Maya Chowdhry, Trish Cooke, Winsome Pinnock, Meera Syal, Zindika
A landmark collection of plays for stage, screen and radio. While other anthologies of plays by writers of African descent have been published, Six Plays by Black and Asian Women Writers (1st edition 1993; new revised edition 2005) was the first drama anthology to represent women alone.
Comedy, poetry, history and magic combined with themes of a social and spiritual nature are the themes and styles evident in Six Plays by Black and Asian Women Writers, a seminal collection of plays for stage, radio and television by Rukhsana Ahmad, Maya Chowdhry, Trish Cooke, Winsome Pinnock, Meera Syal and Zindika.
Edited and introduced by Kadija George, Six Plays by Black and Asian Women Writers includes: Essays on theatre and writing workshop; The Importance of Oral Tradition to Black Theatre by Valerie Small; A survey, A Recent Look at Black Women Playwrights by Deirdre Osborne.
This anthology’s key characteristics are effortless depictions of characters devoid of stereotypical images and typecast roles and the playwrights’ approach to unconventional issues.
Six Plays by Black and Asian Women Writers represents just some of the writers who have achieved national recognition with work produced on stage, television and radio by some of the most distinguished actors, directors and producers of African and Asian descent that the arts field in Britain has seen.
The anthology heralds the significance that young women of African and Asian descent now have more role models to look towards, reinforced by actors and writers-in-residence going into educational institutions and more diverse organisations and situations, from the BBC-supported writer-in-residence projects, with the likes of performer/artists Rommi Smith and Erika Tan, to performance poet/multi-media artist Dorothea Smartt as the Brixton Market Poet-in-Residence.
Since the first publication of Six Plays by Black and Asian Women Writers: Meera Syal has become an international name, with novel, TV and stage credits including the popular musical, Bombay Dreams, debuting in the West End; After receiving a writer-in-residence fellowship at Cambridge University, Winsome Pinnock has gone on to produce further plays staged at much-respected fringe theatres such as the Tricycle Theatre; Maya Chowdhry continues to be experimental with her work in multimedia formats, has co-edited a book with Nina Rapi, Acts of Passion: Sexuality, Gender and Performance and is currently working on a coedited anthology of women’s writing in the north of England, ‘Bitch Lit’; Zindika has written for dance theatre, for Adzido, and co-edited a book, When Will I See You Again with Natalie Smith; Rukshana Ahmad has published a novel, The Hope Chest, and received a Royal Literary Fellowship; Trish Cooke has a successful career writing books for children.
Yet moving from the margins and into the mainstream continues to happen too slowly. More than ten years since the first publication of this anthology, the fight and funding for a ‘Black’-owned and -managed theatre in Britain is still being argued for, and unfortunately, has barely moved.
“The essence of theatre, according to Stuart Griffiths, lies not in the word so much as its ability to affect us, touch us so that we feel pleasure or pain, force us to identify with it by reflecting something which has significance to our life… Black theatre in Britain is surviving. Though few plays have made it to West End stages, productions on the fringe have had continuing success. These plays attract a predominantly Black audience and contain all the elements of the greatest drama: symbolism, language, conflict, rhythm. This is popular theatre at its best using every means necessary to awaken residues of oral traditions buried in the depths of the race memory.” Valerie Small, The Importance Of Oral Tradition To Black Theatre (1993)
“The new writing initiatives of the late 20th century grew out of a need to haul white elitist (male-dominated) theatre into a multi-cultural world wherein the plays staged were more accurately reflective of surrounding society, demographically and culturally… After the funding decimation of many Black and Asian theatre groups in the late 1980s, the cultivation of writers from marginalised social groups comprised an aspect of dismantling institutional racism… As May Joseph has pointed out, it was not until the late 20th century that ‘the absence of Black women as subjects with agency’ was challenged and countered by the work of black women playwrights. The importance of including and perpetuating indigenous Black British drama in the mainstream theatrescape can be neither underestimated nor over-emphasised. It provides a key cultural site wherein ethnicities and experiences who may not otherwise meet are directly exposed to each other’s cultural practices… Black drama exposes mainstream (predominantly white) theatre-goers to aspects of Black British cultural input that is as indigenous to contemporary British cultural identity as that provided by white playwrights. It provides Black audiences with authentically rendered cultural representations which have not as yet been able to develop a flourishing continuum in Britain’s cultural psyche.” Deirdre Osborne, A Recent Look At Black Women Playwrights (2005)
Introduction | Kadija George | The Importance of Oral Tradition to Black Theatre | Valerie Small | A Recent Look At Black Women Playwrights | Deirdre Osborne |
This is not included in the current edition but will be available in the ebook or by request:
The Write Stuff | Sita Ramamurthy |
Black Women in Theatre | Bernardine Evaristo |
The Theatre of Black Women: Britain’s first Black Women’s Theatre Company | Bernardine Evaristo |
Interview with Yvonne Brewster | Stella Oni
A Hero’s Welcome by Winsome Pinnock is a tale of misplaced loyalty, longing for escape and early love.
Monsoon by Maya Chowdhry is a poetic account of a young woman’s sexual awakening.
Leonora’s Dance by Zindika is about four women who share the house of a ballet dancer, whose contact with the supernatural lays the ghosts of the past to rest.
My Sister-Wife by Meera Syal is a taut thriller about two women who discover they are both married to the same man.
Song for a Sanctuary by Rukhsana Ahmad explores the painful dilemma of an Asian woman forced to seek help from a women’s refuge.
Running Dream by Trish Cooke tells the story of three generations of West Indian women with warmth and humour.
About the editor
Kadija George is a literary activist, editor and publisher. Of Sierra Leonean descent, she read West African studies at Birmingham University, then became a freelance journalist, specialising in black arts, black British Literature and women’s issues. In the mid-1990s, she worked for the Centreprise Literature Development Project as the Black Literature Development Coordinator and set up the newspaper, Calabash. She left there in 1998. In 2001, she became founder and managing editor of Sable magazine. Kadija has edited anthologies of black writing, including Burning Words, Flaming Images (1996) – poems and stories from writers of African descent; IC3: the Penguin Book of New Black Writing in Britain (2000), co-edited with Courttia Newland; and Write Black, Write British (2005). She is also the series editor for Inscribe, an imprint of Peepal Tree Press. Her first full collection of poems, Irki, was published in 2013. She has worked on projects with adults and young people, including one for the Commission for Racial Equality, and has been Writer in Residence for Vision Quest in Atlanta, US. She organises The Sable Writers’ Hot Spot – trips for writers abroad and established Sable LitFest in 2005. She teaches creative writing and journalism. Her own writing appears in various anthologies and has been broadcast on radio and performed at a number of venues. She is a George Bell Fellow, Kennedy Center for Arts Management Fellow, and General Secretary of African Writers Abroad. She has won various awards for her work, including Cosmopolitan Woman of Achievement (1994), and Woman of the Millennium (2000). Kadija George lives between the UK and the USA.
Performance Rights Information A HERO’S WELCOME: The Agency Ltd MY SISTER-WIFE: Rochelle Stevens and Co RUNNING DREAM: Curtis Brown Ltd. MONSOON/SONG FOR A SANCTUARY/LEONORA’S DANCE: Write to the Author © c/o Aurora Metro Books
About the authors
Winsome Pinnock was born in Islington, North London. She is an award-winning playwright, academic and dramaturg. Her work has been produced on the British stage and internationally since 1985. She was the first black British female writer to have a play produced by the Royal National Theatre. Winsome is Associate Professor in Drama at Kingston University and was Senior Visiting Fellow at Cambridge University. She has worked as a dramaturg with the Royal National Theatre’s New Views scheme as well as with the Royal Court’s International Department. The prizes awarded to her work include the George Devine Award, The Pearson Plays on Stage Award and the Unity Theatre Trust Award.
Maya Chowdhry was born in Edinburgh and grew up on the Fife coast; basking on barnacled rocks in an orange swimsuit, the February wind chilling her skin to goosebumps. She journeyed the kala pani; circling to Scottish shores, her poetry manuscript below layers in her mum’s attic. She (w)rights poetry, plays & digital poetry. Her poetry has travelled via film, audio, web and past fingers on pages; always discovering, always uncovering.
Zindika is a writer and teacher. She is best known as a playwright and her plays have toured nationally. Her work has also been performed in collaboration with the Adzido Dance Company at Sadler’s Wells and The Royal Festival Hall. Zindika is the author of several books, including When will I see you again? (2005), a post Windrush anthology. Also, she is the author of two children’s books.
Meera Syal is a British-Indian comedian, writer, playwright, singer, journalist, producer and actress. She rose to prominence as one of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me and became one of the UK’s best-known Indian personalities portraying Sanjeev’s grandmother, Ummi, in The Kumars at No. 42. She was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 1997 New Year Honours and in 2003 was listed in The Observer as one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy. She was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2015 New Year Honours for services to drama and literature.
Rukhsana Ahmad‘s stage plays include: Song For Sanctuary, The Gate-Keeper’s Wife, Black Shalwar, River On Fire (shortlist Susan Smith Blackburn Prize 2002), The Man Who Refused to be God, Last Chance and Partners in Crime. Radio plays and adaptations include: Song for a Sanctuary (CRE award, runner-up), An Urnful of Ashes, The Errant Gene, Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman At Point Zero, Jean Rhy’s Wide Sargasso Sea (shortlist CRE and Writers’ Guild Award for best adaptation), R.K Narayan’s The Guide and Nadeem Aslam’s Maps For Lost Lovers. She also wrote for Westway and helped to create Pyaar Ka Passort for BBC World Service Trust. Her fiction includes a novel; The Hope Chest (Virago) and several short stories have been published internationally. Her translations from Urdu include We Sinful Women, and Altaf Fatima’s novel, The One Who Did Not Ask. Currently she is working on Letting Go, a new play for Pursued by a Bear, and an adaptation for the BBC of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children.
Trish Cooke was born in Bradford, West Yorkshire, to parents from Dominica. Cooke developed a love of theatre while still in school and went on to study at Leeds Polytechnic and Ilkley College, where she earned a BA in performing arts. She has since had a successful career as a children’s tv presenter as well as writing children’s books including the award-winning So Much, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, and The Grandad Tree, illustrated by Sharon Wilson.