Unheard Voices: Somali Writers

Unheard Voices is a strand of work that aims to nurture and develop playwrights from communities whose voices are not currently represented on the stage. It has previously run groups for Chinese and South East Asian playwrights, and for young Muslim playwrights.

This year, we are running an ‘Introduction to Playwriting’ group for writers of Somali descent. Each weekly session will involve sharing ideas, reading and talking about plays and writing exercises, working towards writing a new play.

With the programme now well underway, Firdos Ali, one of the writers involved, will be reporting back to us in weekly blog so we can follow the groups’ discoveries.

Devised Theatre – Week 6 of 12

This week we truly broke free of the bounds of writers’ stillness. We were half-way through the Unheard Voices programme and had already learned the importance of dramatic action and play. But could we collaborate with others – devising scenes – as part of a group?

We split up into three groups and picked a word or two that we associated with ‘sheeko’ (which means story in Somali). The group I was in chose the word ‘gossip’. In ten minutes we discussed gossip, its impact, how it spread fast via social media and affected young people. We improvised a few actions related to gossip, tried them, picked a few and chose a sequence of events to demonstrate them. From this a narrative formed quite easily and we enacted this:

A person takes a photo of something he stumbles upon. The photo then spreads from friend to friend via Twitter, Facebook and word of mouth. In the final moments, the person who was initially photographed is shown the photo and is devastated.

Our group was then asked to remove all dialogue from our scene and introduce music. The second group (who had also chosen gossip) was asked to reduce the dialogue in their scene and use the one space to show action happening in two different locations simultaneously.

The third group whose scene involved a pair of bankers and a pair of birds were asked to use a different location for their devised scene. They chose the staircase.

We enacted all three scenes with the suggestions. The reduced dialogue, addition of music and change of location made a dramatic difference to the final devised scenes and we were left feeling energised and confident about using devised approaches in our work.