Radical theatre company Red Ladder are back with a new touring production My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored.
It’s the debut work by 29-year-old Ghanian-English writer Nana-Kofi Kufuor interrogating black identity and posing a big question for our troubled times: if you see something you do not agree with, do you intervene?
What happens if you’re a teacher, and the issue is with your student? What happens if you’re outside of work, and see them stopped and searched and manhandled by the police? Do you run over and stop the act, or do you watch, and wait to find out all the facts?
That’s the dilemma for Gillian Akwasi, a black twenty-something teacher who watches while her student, Reece Ofori, is roughly accosted by the police. The next day, he confronts her before locking them both in her classroom at the end of the school day.
Kufuor has drawn on direct influence from his experiences growing up in Stockport with Ghanian parents and working in education with young people from a range of backgrounds.
“Working at a Pupil Referral Unit, I once had a student try to take a knife to stab another student,” recalls Kufuor “Once I’d calmed him down, we sat in the canteen and he explained to me he wasn’t going to go quietly.
“The police were outside and they took him. I saw him a few weeks later, and he asked why I didn’t help him? That rush of guilt changed to anger and quickly to sympathy as he saw me as his protector. But I knew I couldn’t do anything.
“The crux of this play is how two people react to the same situation: they go on a journey; a journey a lot of people of colour go on – a realisation that where you are now isn’t necessarily where you come from.”
His first play performed by Jelani D’Aguilar and Misha Duncan-Barry was developed as part of a year-long writing commission for Box Of Tricks. It was staged as a rehearsed reading at Manchester’s HOME in January, where it was seen by Red Ladder’s artistic director Rod Dixon.
“We’re very excited to be working with Nana-Kofi Kufuor as this important play addresses key issues about race and identity at a time when society needs to heal division and strife,” notes Dixon.
“We’ve brought together a fantastic creative team, including director Dermot Daly, and look forward to taking this new work on tour – welcoming back audiences in theatres and community venues in a safe way.”
My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored premieres at Leeds Playhouse (26th – 28th November) and tours to The Dukes, Lancaster (2nd December), Grove Hall (3rd December, Red Ladder Local) Cast, Doncaster (4th December), Oldham Coliseum (5th December) and Cluntergate, Horbury (6th December, Red Ladder Local).
For more information and to book tickets, visit www.redladder.co.uk
You can also book directly at:
26th – 28th November, Leeds Playhouse. www.leedsplayhouse.org.uk
2nd December, The Dukes, Lancaster. www.Dukeslancaster.org
3rd December, Grove Hall, South Kirkby. www.thegrovehall.co.uk
4th December, Cast, Doncaster. www.castindoncaster.com
5th December, Oldham Coliseum, Oldham. www.coliseum.org.uk
6th December, Cluntergate Centre, Horbury. www.theatreroyalwakefield.co.uk