This November Red Ladder Theatre Company is heading home to Leeds with a very timely new play My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored exploring race and identity.
It opens with 15-year-old Reece, played by Jelani D’Aguilar, being roughly accosted by police. Misha Duncan-Barry’s young, Black teacher Gillian Misha witnesses it all but doesn’t question or intervene as the disturbing scene plays out.
The consequences of her lack of action erupt the following day when Gillian finds herself locked in a classroom with Reece.
As a radical theatre company Red Ladder are always looking to challenge audiences, and this time take the audience to the centre of a discussion that asks ‘if you see something you do not agree with, do you intervene?’
This new work is the stage debut from writer Nana-Kofi Kufur who has drawn on his own experience growing up in Stockport with Ghanian parents, and working in education with young people from a range of backgrounds.
“The crux of this play is how two people react to the same situation,” explains Kofi. “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.
“When working at a Pupil Referral Unit, I once had a student take a knife to stab another student. 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.”
Red Ladder has been producing new writing by voices whose work is often unheard for five decades. It does tour work nationally, but its roots are in Yorkshire where it has curated a circuit of non-theatre spaces, including working men’s clubs, sports and social clubs and community hubs.
“We’re very excited to be working with Nana-Kofi Kufuor, this important play addresses key issues about race and identity at a time when society needs to heal division and strife,” notes artistic director Rod Dixon.
“We’ve brought together a fantastic creative team and look forward to debuting in our home city of Leeds!”
My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored is at Leeds Playhouse from November 11th to 13th then on tour. For more information and to book tickets, visit www.redladder.co.uk