Unheard Voices: Somali Writers

Week 8: Actors Read Our Work

Every session of the Unheard Voices programme at the Royal Court feels special but this week we had actors come in and read our work – a first for most of us!

The session started with the actors introducing themselves, describing the roles they’d played in the past and those they’d like to play in the future. We were given a minute to consider the actors and cast appropriately for our scenes. Each of us had come prepared with a 3 minute scene we had written.

We then took turns (10 minute slots) to introduce our scene, give brief directions to the actors, watch the actors read the scene and finally receive feedback from the other writers and actors. Each writer gave us a question to ponder over as we watched their scene. Is there a sense of place? Is it believable? What do you think of the female character? Can you tell what will happen next?

A nervous excitement filled the room as we sat back and watched the actors bring our scenes to life. Two writers set their scenes in Somalia, four in the UK, one on a ranch in the US and a couple in a place/ time unknown. The themes covered love, pain, loss, identity, cultural practices and clashes.

It was a great opportunity to try out what we had explored over the last few weeks. Apparent in the scenes was all that makes theatre gripping – tension, mystery, good dialogue, interesting characters, strong sense of place and even a couple of monologues/speeches. We all found the evening beneficial- some of us found the actors’ interpretation of our work unexpected but better than we had imagined ourselves and we were able to find out how well the piece worked on an audience.

On a personal level, I found that my lack of commitment as to what my play was really about showed up in how one of my characters came across ambiguously. On the other hand, a secondary character I wasn’t planning on using in more than scene, made a better impact on the audience so I have decided to give him a bigger role. Most importantly, I have since committed to what my play is about and have been able to write effortlessly since.

Photos by Helen Murray