Q&A with Zia Ahmed

We asked playwright Zia Ahmed a few questions about I WANNA BE YOURS – currently touring nationwide and coming to the Bush Theatre 04 December – 18 January.

1. How did the commission of I Wanna Be Yours come about?

hello – so in 2016 i saw an open call out for paines plough’s come to where i’m from which tamasha was working with them on for the london leg

you had to write a monologue about where you’re from + read it yourself no actors

this felt like doing a spoken word piece so thought why not apply?

i got picked for the north-west london event at the kiln [ then tricycle ]

read on a cool line up with writers gabriel bisset smith che walker karla williams

+ my sister too mediah ahmed

paines plough kept in touch with me after + applied for the channel 4 playwright scheme

which we got + i spent 2017 with them + this was the play i started writing as part of it

tamasha came in looking for a play for a week long rural arts tour in 2018 around various schools + village halls in north yorkshire which they co-produced with paines plough + off the back of that tour we ended up with the current tour + bush run

2. Tell us what I Wanna Be Yours is about

I Wanna Be Yours by Zia Ahmed Directed by Anna Himali Howard Cast Ragevan Vasan Emily Stott Rachel Merry ©The Other Richard

i wanna be yours is about haseeb + ella going through their relationship from first meeting to the present. they tell the story to and with rachael who follows their story with them + all the people + spaces they have to navigate together + apart

3. Now tell us what it’s really about! Is it a love story or a political play or both? If both how do you achieve that balance?

it’s about haseeb + ella navigating through the world as a couple + by themselves

it’s about what home means to both of them

it’s about the things they experience on their own they bring into their relationship

+ the things they experience as a couple impact them as individuals

everything is everything

love does not exist in a vacuum

love is affected by the real world 

your race your class your gender your region your faith your work

these inform how you love how you loved how you’ve been loved how you want love how you want to love

+ love includes it all 

a love story can’t be apolitical

for me balance comes having everything as one 

overlapping connected + not separated into 

this part is love 

this part is political 

this part is + so on

I Wanna Be Yours by Zia Ahmed Directed by Anna Himali Howard Cast Ragevan Vasan Emily Stott Rachel Merry ©The Other Richard

5. How did you decide to become a poet and playwright? And which came first?

poetry is probably the path that got me to this play 

but theatre led me to that path in the first place

i was part of youth theatre groups 

heat&light at hampstead [ got closed down ]

then oval house drama company 

at royal court i met sabrina mahfouz [ sabrinamahfouz.com ] at a writer’s group 

she invited us to come to a uk slam

that was my first experience of performance poetry 

saw my mate sean mahoney [ seanysense.com ] perform as part of roundhouse poetry collective

[ which is still going + open for anyone under 25 to apply to ]

off the back of seeing sean i applied for the next year

ended up going to theatre less + spoken word nights more 

watching + writing + performing

i love[d] the form of it writing + performing your own work

+ the immediacy + intimacy + variety of voices within it all

then the come to where i’m from call out came

it feels like i’ve come full circle 

but this time round both poems + plays are drawing at the same time

I Wanna Be Yours by Zia Ahmed Directed by Anna Himali Howard Cast Ragevan Vasan Emily Stott Rachel Merry ©The Other Richard

6. How does your background as a poet feed into your playwriting? You’re also a Poetry Slam champion – how does being a performer inform the way you write characters?

being part of the roundhouse poetry collective 

one of the first pieces of advice from steven camden aka polarbear [ bearstories.org ] was

‘write for the sound of your own mouth’

[ maybe paraphrased but it’s how i remember it now ] 

he made clear to us from the start he wasn’t trying to tell us how to write A Good Poem

but for us to write poems which were in our voice for our voice

it was always about us saying what we want to say

i’ve tried to keep that in mind when i write anything

so while this play has characters who don’t speak like i do

it will say things i want to be talked about 

there are bits with are obviously rhythmic

but there’s not much punctuation in the script 

cos i wanted the director + the actors work out rhythms

a rhythm that is more for themselves

+ it feels more fun that way

seeing the choices they make

I Wanna Be Yours by Zia Ahmed Directed by Anna Himali Howard Cast Ragevan Vasan Emily Stott Rachel Merry ©The Other Richard

8. How much of your own experience mirrors Haseeb’s?

haseeb is a british pakistani poet from north west london 

the character is me + the character is fictionalised

experiences i’ve had are fed into haseeb’s story

also experiences i’ve imagined + experiences i didn’t have

so no matter how much or how little is actual happenings

it’s all things i’ve wanted to talk about + dissect

it’s all based on real feelings + impulses for conversations

which i hope can be had with people who watch the play

9. What else are you working on right now?

working on a commission for hopefully a second play

+ i am also on tour with sarathy korwar at the moment

two poems i wrote are part of tracks he’s made 

which i’m performing at his shows

he’s an amazing musican + v excited i get to be part of it

I Wanna Be Yours by Zia Ahmed Directed by Anna Himali Howard Cast Ragevan Vasan Emily Stott Rachel Merry ©The Other Richard

You can read more about I WANNA BE YOURS here. Are we touring near you?

https://sarathykorwar.bandcamp.com/album/more-arriving

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