To focus on encouraging fresh and new playwriting voices from the British Asian community, Rifco Theatre Company has announced their '2019 Rifco Associates' artist development programme. A call-out for new scripts and treatments from both mid-career and emerging writers led to their largest ever number of applications and Shazia Ashraf, Mohammed Azhar, Karim Khan, Christine Lalla and Romo Sikdar-Rahman have been announced as their 2019 Rifco Associates.
The Rifco Associates was launched in 2015 to address the lack of opportunity for British Asian artists in the theatre sector. Since then 20 artists have been supported through the programme from a range of artistic practice including writers, lyricists, composers, designers, aerial artists and spoken word. The programme is now led by Ameet Chana.
Shazia Ashraf, is a Yorkshire based writer and director whose recent work includes 99% Halal (Kala Sangam) and Sweets & Chocolates (Kali & RADA). Her play, Reservoir Rami, is a comedy drama described as a Four Lions for the stage.
Mohammed Azhar, a pharmacist by trade, has written a number of comedy dramas including a recent BBC Radio 4 production. His piece, Lost In Bachchan, follows a father and son who re-discover their relationship through the music of legendary Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan.
Playwright and screenwriter Karim Khan, whose recent credits include 'Beyond Shame' (Derby Theatre, 2018) and 'Orange Juice' (The Pleasance, Burton Taylor Studio, 2017), will be working with Rifco to develop a play exploring the exploring the fear and excitement of falling in love again after suffering the loss of a partner, a subject that remains a major taboo in South Asian cultures.
Christine Lalla, a graduate of the London Film School, will be turning her talents to the stage and developing a play about a top professional tennis player that explores human relationships and homosexuality. Christine said, “I came away from our (first) meeting even more excited about my own project…and I’ve already benefited from having fresh eyes on my story...”.
Romo Sikdar-Rahman’s debut play, The Front, is set in a family-owned Bengali Restaurant, and charts the journey of younger family members seeking out a more honest lifestyle. Romo said, “I'm really looking forward to learning and working with great people who'll give me a chance to improve my own craft. It's an incredible platform for any young writer”.
The successful candidates will receive a £500 bursary alongside mentoring support, writer-in-residence days and masterclasses with industry leaders to develop their play over the next year, culminating in a Showcase event later in the year. Rifco Theatre Company then aims to select one or two writers for a second year of support to develop their script to the next stage.
Artistic Director, Pravesh Kumar told Asian Voice, “Our new cohort of Rifco Associates are an exciting bunch. I believe it is imperative that we give genuine opportunities to new voices who are telling unique and authentic British stories. Crucially they will open the doors even further to new audiences in British theatres.”
Associate Director, Ameet Chana, added, “New writing is part of Rifco’s ethos and it gives me great pleasure to lead a programme where our Associates will be supported to develop their ideas through mentors, writer-in-residence days and masterclasses led by recognised theatre practitioners.”