This Play Isn’t Set in the 1970s – These Events are Happening Now

Black comes to the Albany next week to tell us a tale of a Zimbabwean family’s struggles to settle in to a Liverpudlian neighbourhood. Nikki doesn’t think her Dad is a racist… He just deeply cares about his community. But when a Zimbabwean family moves in over the road, her Dad starts laying down the law. This frank and honest look at racism in today’s world makes this show a provocative piece of work that is relevant to all communities across Britain.

black

Keith Saha, Co-Artistic Director tells is more:
This blog is abridged, to read the full version click here.

Without giving too much away, Black is a story that centres around a young white woman called Nikki who lives on a predominantly white estate, when a Zimbabwean family move onto the close she turns a blind eye to the racism they face.

It’s a challenging piece, and the two actors that portray Nikki and the Zimbabwean teen Precious have an astonishingly challenging job to do in terms of the emotions it throws up for the audiences everywhere they go. Nikki doesn’t hold any punches in her language she uses, she is uncensored and hearing language like this has sometimes been difficult for some audiences.

I wrote this play in response to a real event a youth worker friend had told me about. She told me about an African family who had moved onto the estate where she was working, and they were met with hostility by a lot of the local community. On hearing this I was shocked and saddened, but not surprised.

On doing further research with young people in Liverpool, I soon learned that violent racist attacks were common, everyday casual racism was even more common. But often people didn’t talk about it.

It took me back to an incident that had taken place in Birkenhead in the late 70’s when I was growing up. A black family were moving in over the road and all of the street had come out to have a look. A husband and wife and two little boys the same age as me 4 or 5. The name calling started , the ‘N’ word was being shouted, then the stones started to get thrown, the Mum and Dad hurriedly took their kids inside. I was one of the kids that was also throwing stones. After the family went inside, one of the older lads turned and pointed at me ‘What about him? What about the Paki?’ They all looked at me, and then pounced I was thrown on the floor and was about to get a beating but fortunately the older kids in my family jumped in and protected me. At that time my family I was living with was all white, and I had not fully understood that my mixed heritage of Indian and English/Irish was an issue.

When I moved back up to Liverpool in 2006 I was acutely aware of the growing racial tensions that were coming back on a national level. Heightened by 9/11 and the global recession the rise the BNP and the EDL started to look ugly on the streets. Ten years later with the collapse of the BNP and the EDL we now have the acceptable face of racist views. UKIP and Britain First.

So what to do with this information? I wrote Black.

I wrote Black from the perspective of Nikki a young woman who was in the middle of all this. She is based on some young women I knew growing up and she also exists in the here and now. Black is based on events that are happening now.

As the tour carries on the tour continues, the reactions from the audience differ night to night and can be radically different even in the same location. A mix of people unaware of the situation, of young black people who are acutely aware and also young people like Nikki who are working their way through defining who they are and what their views are on immigration and a multi-cultural Britain.

My hope is that we don’t need to tour Black again or it shouldn’t be a show that will still be relevant in a few years. It will be a period piece. There are no easy answers but one thing I have learned over the past few weeks, talking openly about these things on a community level helps, highlighting these issues on social media helps, speaking out against racism and direct action helps.

You can see Black at the Albany on Tuesday 17 – Wednesday 18 March, 7.30pm.

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