It’s time Asian writers had their voices heard on stage

Mahsuda Snaith

It was after disappointing night at the theatre that Mahsuda Snaith turned her hand to playwriting. The evening left her feeling somewhat disillusioned about what makes good theatre. A seasoned novelist and short story writer, Snaith had attempted writing plays before, but found they didn’t always work.

‘I liked the premise of the play that night,’ she says, ‘but it was pretentious and didn’t make sense.’ Driven to see something on stage that would resonate with audiences she set out to write something better. She sent off a first draft to Kali theatre in the hope they would help her develop the script and was soon invited to join their writers development programme.

The Kali Talk Back Writers Development Programme offers South Asian women an opportunity to showcase their plays. Writers are invited to attend a series of workshops with industry experts, while working on their scripts. A final selection are produced and showcased at Tristan Bates theatre.

Working with a handful of writers, the programme allows some flexibility to tailor the fortnightly sessions to the needs of the writers. There is a commitment to nurture new and emerging writers like Snaith, who found the experience overwhelmingly positive. She says it gave her a chance to delve deeper into a world where she otherwise feels like an outsider. ‘It was a great way to find out about playwriting; what the rules are; and gives you confidence.’

Writers work independently to produce an hour long play. A collaborative session also sees writers offering critical feedback and sharing ideas but for Snaith, it was seeing her play being performed which was a real eye opener. It helped her understand ‘what’s good and what isn’t.’

The passion to develop rising stars and producing exciting diverse plays is apparent in the final Talk Back programme. ‘It was incredibly diverse,’ Snaith says of this year’s showcase, ‘different to what we’re used to seeing. It was refreshing to watch plays that had Asian characters but not about Asian issues.’

The Kali Talk Back programme is now open for applications.