London-based KALI THEATRE boasts an ever growing reputation for supporting and producing ground-breaking work by British South Asian female playwrights. Last year’s production, The Dishonoured by Aamina Ahmad, was critically acclaimed and was nominated for two Offies/Off West End Awards.
READY OR NOT is a pacy political thriller written by NAYLAH AHMED. The play is a chilling reflection of the chaotic political and social times we live in: Ahmed’s electrifying story sets out its claustrophobic stall in a small suburban house peopled by a handful of characters whose lives are inexorably tied together and whose hasty decisions leave them teetering on the edge of disaster. The play explores loss, guilt and the fallout from collateral damage in a warring world where there are no rules and the enemy could be anyone. The atmosphere is tense, the characters desperate, the fallout tragic.
The cast is led by prolific British stage and TV actress Joan Blackham.
Writer Naylah Ahmed was influenced by constant ‘war on terror’ media coverage: “I am not alone in noting the changing world post 9/11, particularly for Muslims in Britain and worldwide,” notes Naylah. “The war on terror has continued, leaving countries and peoples ravished and untold numbers of non-combatants killed – untold because they’re uncounted. That civilised nations wage war on countries not at war with them, chasing an elusive enemy (namely, terror), spreading the ideals of democracy and assigning uncounted, unnamed deaths to the communal grave marked collateral damage – astonishes me.
Naylah Ahmed answers a few questions about the production:
Q: Can you tell us how Ready or Not began and how it has evolved?
Naylah: Ready or Not has been with me for some years, actually. Not the play in its current form, but so much has happened since September 2001 and I’ve wanted to address it for some time. This is just one response, as so much is still happening and will keep on for some time to come.
Q: What is at the heart of the production?
Naylah: People’s lives.
Q: Is the production intended to inform and be an educational piece?
Naylah: No it isn’t. It’s an exploration of a situation, a possibility. If the characters and situation happen upon moments that audience members find new and informative, then that’s a bonus. I think the best stories trigger questions rather than provide answers.
Q: Do the performing arts need to have a bigger voice regarding the vicious cycle of Western globalization and the ‘war on terror’?
Naylah: I believe that when global matters, political or otherwise, have direct implications on our daily lives it’s important for creative people from all disciplines to explore those implications. Because we might do so in ways that news and opinion cannot. It’s an important element of the debate.
Q: Why should everyone get along to see Ready or Not?
Naylah: I hope READY OR NOT is a play for our times, exploring a very possible and thrilling situation, through surprising characters and a compelling story. I think audiences will be on the edge of their seats and I hope they’ll have lots to talk about afterwards.
Naylah Ahmed is an established writer for theatre, radio and TV as well as a radio drama producer. Her play MUSTAFA was commissioned by Birmingham Rep and co-produced by Kali Theatre (directed by Janet Steel – Soho Theatre London and UK tour); it was awarded a Special Prize by the National Theatre Foundation (2013). Her play Butcher Boys was one of the four joint winners of the Bruntwood Prize (2008). Naylah has written several episodes of JAMILLAH & ALADDIN Series 1 and 2 (CBBC/Kindle). Ready Or Not was developed after being presented at one of Kali Theatre’s popular Talkback evenings of staged play readings. Naylah is based in Birmingham.
READY OR NOT will be directed by Kali Theatre’s new Artistic Director, Helena Bell (left): “I’m delighted to have joined Kali Theatre as the company’s new Artistic Director and excited that my first production will be ‘Ready Or Not’ by Naylah Ahmed. Naylah’s play Mustafa was produced by Kali in 2012 and is one of my favourite Kali plays. Ready Or Not has similarly complex characters grappling with obsessive, difficult emotions and here played out against a backdrop of disturbing internet chat rooms. I think the play’s gripping themes and contemporary visuals will create a stimulating and thought-provoking piece of theatre for audiences around the UK.”
READY OR NOT cast is led by Joan Blackham as PAT:
Theatre credits include: Blown Apart (Windsor Fringe) original cast of Calendar Girls (UK Tour/Noel Coward) The Importance of Being Earnest (Guildford Shakespeare Company) Jane Eyre (Shared Experience, Trafalgar Studios/World Tour) The Moonstone (Royal Exchange) Love of the Nightingale, King Lear, Man of Mode (RSC) Children of a Lesser God (Albery) Kenneth Williams’s Loot (Lyric Studio/Arts Theatre). Numerous TV credits include: New Tricks, Dr Who, Whitechapel, Doctors, Midsomer Murders, Honest, Heartbeat, Inspector Morse and many more. Film credits include: Masaryk, Eleanor Roosevelt in Battle for Sevastopol. The Sweeney, The Knot, Mothers and Daughters, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Plenty.
Ready Or Not tour dates:
April 5th 6th
April 7th 8th
Canterbury Marlowe Theatre
London, Arcola Theatre
Plymouth, Drum Theatre at the Theatre Royal