New Black Showcase: Spotlight on Ashok Patel

Posted on 26 October 2017

The Belgrade is preparing to present its fifth New Black Showcase, giving audiences a chance to hear stories from the most exciting new writers from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds. Four new plays will be showcased across three nights from Weds 1 – Fri 3 Nov, as script-in-hand readings by a professional company of actors in our B2 auditorium.

In this series of blogs, we shine the spotlight on the writers whose work will presented as part of the showcase. This week we’re talking to Ashok Patel

What is your play called?
My play is called Ninety Days

What is your play about?
In late 1972 President Idi Amin declared that all Asians are working against the interests of Uganda and must leave the country within ninety days. Amin’s declaration and jingoism sweeps the country and further fuels the long standing tensions between Asians (Gujeratis) and Africans in Uganda. This play explores the impact of this expulsion order on the relationships between Asians and their African workers in an affluent household in Kampala. On a backdrop of prejudice and hostility, loyalties and friendships collide as the ninety day deadline approaches and Uganda attempts to create a new beginning.

Where did the idea come from for your play? What was your inspiration?
Many Ugandan Asians came to Leicester after they fled from Uganda. I grew up in Leicester and was aware of their stories and the lives they had left behind in Uganda. For many years now I have felt that the Ugandan Asian expulsion is a forgotten tragedy. Though it happened over 45 years ago, I think that this story resonates today in the way communities relate to each other in the UK, and around the world.

How do you feel about hearing your piece read aloud in front of an audience? Is this the first time it will be performed?
Two scenes from an earlier draft Ninety Days have been performed in front of an audience at the First Bite Festival at the mac Birmingham earlier this year. An extended piece of this play is being performed at the Belgrade Theatre on November 3rd which has developed a lot since that festival. Dramaturgical sessions and a workshop with actors have helped to shape the latest draft. I am excited about the opportunity to see a larger piece of Ninety Days being performed! But, also a little anxious about the audience reaction to this story. I hope that it can provide some new insight that will aid the next draft as I work towards a new draft for a full length staged reading on 13th January 2018 at the futuretheatre Showcase at mac Birmingham.

How did you get involved with futuretheatre?
Jouvan Fucinni, artistic director at futuretheatre, had a fortuitous conversation with Tim Hodgson (producer at the mac Birmingham) in early 2016. Tim had heard a reading of a early draft of Ninety Days and (thankfully!) recommended it to Jouvan who was on the look out for new work to develop. Jouvan wrote to me and over a few months I met with Jouvan and Toyin Omari-Kinch, creative producer at futuretheatre, a few times and I was delighted to be asked to be part of a script/writer development project they were planning. The journey with futuretheatre began properly in January 2017, with closed readings, dramaturgical sessions and a research and development workshop with actors in August, all part of their writer and script development project which culminates with the futuretheatre Showcase in 2018. Without a doubt, it has been a rich and fulfilling experience for me! The play, and I, have developed enormously and come a long way in the hands of this unique and exceptional theatre company.

What one piece of advice would you give to new and aspiring playwrights?
Go and see lots of theatre, read lots of plays, find a story that means the world to you, keep writing and persist!