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In autumn 2019  we undertook a research  and development period of White Pariahs, unearthing the hidden stories of white working class women who crossed the ‘colour line’, and fell in love with, or married Black men.  This was the beginning of an exciting collaboration with Dervish Productions that brought two innovative artists and theatre writers in the same room: Hassan Mahamdallie (Writer / Dervish’s Artistic Director) and Julie McNamara (Writer / Vital Xposure’s Artistic Director).

Following the R&D in 2019, Hassan and Julie continued to develop the work towards a new theatre production entitled White Pariahs: Quiet Rebels. They decided to call the protagonists of the real-life stories ‘quiet rebels’ because they found them to be both ordinary and extraordinary individuals, self-effacing and courageous at the same time.

As we entered one of the strangest period of recent times, a global pandemic in spring 2020, the team shifted to new, digital ways of working and sharing, with the support of renowned, Birmingham-based digital artist Mohammed Ali of Soul City Arts.

Navigating through online platforms of remote collaboration, the two writers brought the story forward to 2028, in a dystopian future where the glaring figure of Enoch Powell dominates, and Racial Purity Laws now control our communities. In part, Julie and Hassan wanted to show that history does not always go forward, sometimes it is thrown backwards, and our hard-won gains are erased. They also experimented with their own script writing, tackling the question how to translate the live theatre experience into online platforms, that have become the new, but so different, theatre stage during  the pandemic.

You can watch a short trailer of the Online R&D to get a flavour of the work produced (click play below):

Two online sharing events of the second phase of the ongoing Research and Development took place on Zoom in July and August 2020. The team used these events to test the story and ask questions about audience’s live engagement with the subject matter through online platforms. Thanks to the digital wizardry of Mohammed Ali, the creative team also pushed Zoom’s boundaries for creativity and the aesthetics of access within this work.

Below are a few screenshots from the online sharing:

We were amazed by the responses received by our critical friends and the insightful feedback towards future steps:

“That was the most powerful experience I have had on Zoom yet. Such creative use of the platform.”

“I’m so impressed with the experimentation with zoom and pushing its (desperately annoying) limits, and I’m also fascinated to see what you take from here into next format (post-Zoom?). I also was mostly grasped by the moments when I could really focus on the story and feel more emotionally connected.”

“I really like the futuristic thread you’re weaving into the story,  it allows past present and future to coexist in parallel. A strong reminder to the viewer that times change but the human condition often remains the same.”

“This kind of dystopian drama is frightening, as it’s not too distant from reality, or possibility.”

“I enjoyed the experimentation with the zoom format, both for its filmic qualities and its potential to comment on history and archiving.”

“I thought the way the read was tailored to Zoom (really engaging with the form, rather than ‘merely’ being on Zoom out of necessity) such a refreshing change from many other things I have seen recently.”

“I thought using the detective/narrator character as a form of integrated audio description in this setting was extremely inventive.”

“Wonderful textures, I was transported, ethereal but real point in time. The interplay of BSL positioning was too good. It felt dystopian! Yes!”

“So different to watch on this platform, chilling, confronting, well done!”

“Audio describing was on the point…well done”

 


Creative Team (Second R&D 2020)

Researchers / Writers / Directors: Hassan Mahamdallie and Julie McNamara

Digital Arts Director: Mohammed Ali, Soul City Arts

Actors / Researchers: Charlie FolorunshoDeni FrancisFiona Whitelaw

Actor / BSL Interpreter: Clare Edwards

Movement Consultant: Jeanefer Jean-Charles

Project Producer: Isobel Hawson


A creative partnership between Vital Xposure, Dervish Productions and Soul City Arts.

The second phase of Research and Development was supported by Arts Council England and City Bridge Trust.

White Pariahs: Quiet Rebels will be further developed towards a national tour in 2021 -2022.


For further information about the project  please send us a message using our online enquiry form. Alternatively, drop us an email, give us a call on 020 8123 9945 or send us a text (SMS / WhatsApp) on 074 3242 18253.

In autumn 2019  we undertook a research  and development period of White Pariahs, unearthing the hidden stories of white working class women who ‘crossed the colour line’, and fell in love with, or married Black men. The women risked hostility from wider society and often from those closest to them, to defy convention, cross the colour-line and marry men from the colonies. These ‘White Pariahs’ of the 50s, 60s and 70s demonstrated rebellion, defiance and courage in the face of racism and class and gender prejudice.

A new thrilling collaboration with Dervish Productions, that has brought together two creative forces to make this ground breaking work, Hassan Mahamdallie (Writer / Dervish’s Artistic Director) and Julie McNamara (Writer / Vital Xposure’s Artistic Director).

 

Hassan and Julie collected testimonies from mothers, partners, fathers, husbands, wives and children – all of whom have their own stories to tell.  They invited  3 superb actors with lived experience of dual heritage families to work with the team: Fiona Whitelaw, Charlie Folorunsho and Deni Francis.

The initial exploratory work took place at Brady Arts Centre and The Albany, where the team presented the work in progress before an audience of critical friends and peers.

Tender and moving stories emerged, telling of women, men and children of mixed relationships, who faced hostility from the wider society, often from those closest to them. Ostracised by their own communities, suffering abuse and battling discrimination, the stories showed their defiance and courage in the face of racism, class and gender prejudice. These moving stories revealed extraordinary survival and lasting, loving relationships.

Photos from the research period at Brady Arts Centre. Credit: Rehan Jamil

 

The sharing event at the end of the R&D was followed by a discussion session, with a vibrant room filled with people keen to respond to the questions raised in the piece.  We are grateful to everyone who joined us on the day, the Q&A could have lasted all evening!

“I love the way it is fluid and ambiguous in the script. I love the relevance of this piece. We need this work now! Great work in progress. Vital work.”

“Thought-provoking, poignant, inspiring. Love the richness of the stories against the bleakness of the wider political structures that prop up racism. Disheartening to realise we are moving into the same kind of racial politics again.”

“Great story-telling, would love to see more. So much history that speaks to today. It’s made me realise I need to stop being passive. Thank you.”

“Beautiful show – telling important stories really humanely. Interesting to talk more about white women entering BME communities.”

“Very powerful. Much needed. Good having both African-Caribbean and Asian mixed stories.”

 

 

Photos from the sharing event at The Albany Credit: Rehan Jamil

 


Creative Team (First R&D 2019)

Researchers / Writers / Directors: Hassan Mahamdallie and Julie McNamara

Assistant Director: Simon Startin

Designer: Khadija Raza

Project Producer: Isobel Hawson

Actors / Researchers: Charlie FolorunshoDeni FrancisFiona Whitelaw

Historical Consultant: Professor Hakim Adi

Movement Consultant: Jeanefer Jean-Charles

Photography: Rehan Jamil

Filming: Mohammed Ali

BSL Interpreter: Audrey Simmons

Photo of the Creative Team involved in the R&D (from left to right): Fiona Whitelaw, Hassan Mahamdallie, Charlie Folorunsho, Isobel Hawson, Khadija Raza, Simon Startin, Julie McNamara and Deni Francis.

White Pariahs R&D Creative team. Photo by Rehan Jamil


The Research and Development stage of the project was supported by Arts Council England , City Bridge Trust and The Albany.

The research will feed into our the next stage of development in 2020 and the future theatre production of White Pariahs: Quiet Rebels (touring nationally in 2021-22).


For further information about the project or to enquire about the tour in Autumn 2020 please send us a message using our online enquiry form. Alternatively, drop us an email, give us a call on 020 8123 9945 or send us a text on 074 3242 18253.

In summer 2019 we collaborated with poet, playwright and performer, Tanaka Mhishi on the development of his extraordinary new work, a visceral excavation of the impact of sexual assault on young men, entitled This is How it Happens.

The work aims to shine a light on the hidden everyday of the many different men living in the wake of sexual violence, as they navigate love, health, sex, work and fatherhood.

The creative development days at Chats Palace in late August culminated in an intimate sharing of four stories inspired by lived experiences, charting a journey from deep in the forests of trauma out to the clean air of hope, visibility and recovery. Tanaka presents the process below in his own words:

“I had the great pleasure this summer of partnering with Vital Xposure on a short R&D of This Is How it Happens, a semi-autobiographical show exploring men’s experiences of surviving sexual violence.

I began the first drafts of This Is How it Happens in late 2014, ten months after being sexually assaulted. Since then it has been waiting, quietly and patiently, for the right team; for a community which could support me as both an artist and a survivor. So many discussions around abuse and harm are happening in the light of #MeToo, but I knew that if I were going to pursue this project I would have to do it in the safest, most nourishing way- for both me and the audience.

Vital Xposure have been there every step of the way and I found myself constantly astounded by their patience and support. Putting together this stage of the project taught me a lot about my own capabilities and limits and I don’t mind admitting that I both over- and underestimated myself in certain roles. Julie McNamara and the rest of the Vital Xposure team handled all this with aplomb, whether it was coaching me through a pre-show mental health dip or helping out when I was quivering over spreadsheets.

We finished the three day development process with a small showing. It’s difficult to believe how uplifting it was to share difficult material like this with an audience, to find them willing to process and parse it, to hear the increasingly enthusiastic engagement in our Q&A afterwards. And I marvelled at how emotionally supported the performance itself was. It set a benchmark for the next steps.

I am so privileged to be have worked with a group capable of weaving passion and compassion together so seamlessly.

And as for the next steps? Watch this space.

Tanaka Mhishi”

 

 

We were thrilled to be involved in this process and it has been a privilege to work alongside Tanaka on this piece of work.

The intimate sharing event offered some touching responses from attendees which have positively fuelled us for the project’s future steps. We are sharing some of these responses below:

“Very powerful, intense piece! Well done!”

“It provided the insight of the inner world also how the trauma was played externally.”

“Becoming aware of the silence of this issue, the lack of narrative in media on this.”

“It was important to tell the impact beyond the assaults.”


R&D Creative Team

Writer / Performer / Lead Artist: Tanaka Mhishi

Director: Julie McNamara

Movement Consultant:  Imogen Butler-Cole

Photography: Copy to the Writer Photography

 

The Research and Development stage of the project was supported by Arts Council England and City Bridge Trust.

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