Leading playwrights to contribute to auction supporting refugees

Anusha Singh Wednesday 04th October 2023 07:57 EDT

Leading UK playwrights Tanika Gupta and Anupama Chandrasekhar are making a significant contribution by donating first editions of their work to an historic auction aimed at raising funds to support refugees in the UK.

These renowned playwrights are among a group of 60 award-winning playwrights generously donating special first edition copies of their plays to the Out of the Margins online auction, held in partnership with Christie's Auction House. The auction will run online until October 6, 2023.

Tanika Gupta and Anupama Chandrasekhar will be joined by a stellar lineup of theatre luminaries, including Tom Stoppard, David Hare, Jez Butterworth, Richard Curtis, Tina Fey, and many others, in an effort to raise funds for refugees arriving in the UK.

This noteworthy auction coincides with the National Theatre's production of Anupama Chandrasekhar's "The Father and the Assassin," opening on September 8, and Tanika Gupta's "The Empress," transferring from the RSC to the Lyric Hammersmith on October 4.

Speaking to Asian Voice, Tanika Gupta spoke about the auction and her contribution to it. 

Can you provide us an overview of the Auction?

Essentially, a notable group of writers, including some well-known figures, have contributed their first editions to raise funds for a charity dedicated to assisting refugees, particularly those in Cairo. Our initiative involves annotating our scripts, offering people an insightful glimpse into our creative process, the chaos of crafting plays, and the nuances of our work. 

This project provides a unique opportunity to explore the craftsmanship of established writers, such as the esteemed Caryl Churchill. It promises to be an extraordinary experience for anyone interested.

Moreover, the quality of the work itself is exceptional. The proceeds from this endeavor go toward supporting artists who are refugees, individuals who have been compelled to leave their homes and start anew with little to nothing. Thus, it's a noble and worthwhile cause on multiple fronts.

Of all your works, how did you decide that “The Empress” was the best fit for the auction?

When they approached me for this project, it happened to align with the play I was about to begin rehearsals for. This play delves into the theme of British colonialism, particularly its legacy in India. Given that the refugee crisis today has direct ties to historical colonialism, it felt like a compelling choice. It's an intriguing exploration.

Additionally, the organisation was eager to diversify its collection of works, which primarily featured renowned writers like Carol Churchill and Tom Stoppard. They were keen on incorporating the perspectives of globally experienced writers. Our play delves into distinct themes, such as identity and the impact of war, which complement the existing canon.

Furthermore, this rendition of my play is entirely new, fresh, and revamped. It's a brand-new edition.

The refugee stories are yet to have extensive representation in the world of theatre. Why is it so? What can be done to promote refugee narratives?

Certainly, the issue with refugee stories often arises when playwrights decide to write about refugees without actively involving refugees themselves in the storytelling process. The ultimate goal should be to empower individuals to narrate their own experiences, and ideally, to do so in English or have their work translated into English. While there are numerous playwriting courses in London and Britain, my concern lies in who gets to tell these stories and whose perspectives are being represented. It's a question of who holds the pen.

For far too long, we've witnessed white writers appropriating stories from other communities and retelling them through their own lens. This approach tends to result in a one-sided portrayal. The commendable work being undertaken here is focused on facilitating, training, and providing opportunities for refugees to share their own stories. Importantly, this doesn't mean they are limited to only writing about their experiences as refugees. They may want to explore entirely different themes, and that's perfectly valid. No one should be compelled to conform to preconceived notions of what they should write about.

I've personally encountered situations throughout my career where I've been asked to write about specific topics that fit into certain stereotypes, such as domestic violence or terrorism. I've always resisted this pressure because I believe in telling the stories I'm passionate about, irrespective of their origin. The same principle applies to the individuals they are training—it's about granting them a voice and, in a sense, uncovering hidden narratives.

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