In search of Indigo

I’ve been commissioned by Tara Arts to write a play about the atrocities committed by British Indigo Planters in Bengal in the 19th century. The systematic cruelty, abuse of power, violence, and injustice was so severe that in 1860 the Indigo farmers  rose up in extraordinary protest against the planters, and ultimately forced  cultivation out of Bengal.
Funded by the Royal Society of Literature’s Brookleaze Grant, I decided to travel to Bangladesh in order to find out about the legacy of Indigo cultivation in in Bengal (specifically Bangladesh). I had an extraordinary trip, and discoverd some remarkable, and strange, and haunting things. I intend to write more about the trip in due course, but in the meantime here are some images from the trip.
  • In search of the Indigo plant (a legume), which - because of the taboo surrounding its tainted history, was not grown in Bengal for over a century. But the plant continued to grow as a weed on the sides of roads.
  • What ghosts remain in the eerie ruins of a Nil Kuthi, an Indigo plantation house?
  • Terrible secrets, forgotten but not forgotten, in the ruined tanks by the mango trees.
  • But in Rangpur farmers are reclaiming this strange plant with a tainted history...
  • ...And making something beautiful (at LIVING BLUE)
At the end of August 2017 the play will be workshopped at the National Theatre Studio.

NEW COMMISSION FOR TARA ARTS

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I’m very excited to say I’ve been commissioned by world-class theatre pioneers TARA ARTS to write a new play about the Indigo Revolt in 1859/60. The revolt, also known as the ‘Blue Mutiny’, erupted in Bengal in response to terrible exploitation by British Indigo planters, and also inspired the writing of one of the most devastating and effective pieces of political theatre in history. NEEL DARPAN, by Dinabondhu Mitra. The play will be a response to and conversation with that play, and explore the legacy of Indigo cultivation in Bengal today…

I grew up in Bangladesh and India, and this project feels like a return to my ‘second home’. And on that note, I’m also very proud to say that the Royal Society of Literature have awarded me a Brookleaze Grant to travel to Bangladesh and India to research the play.

2015

2015 was one of my best years yet.

It began with POLITRIX, with the amazing The Big House, a company of care leavers. In the run up to the May election, Politrix was a sort-of verbatim play about the political life of care-leavers inspired by real stories from the cast, and a surreal visit to the Houses of Parliament.

“These people who we want to listen, I don’t think we ever get to see them… these people hide.”

  • From POLITRIX, The Big House. Photo: Catherine Ashmore.

 

Directed by genius Maggie Norris, Politrix was an extraordinary experience for me. Read my reflections on the process here:

Then came ACROSS THE DARK WATER, a ‘contemporary’ historical play about the Southampton Plot to kill Henry V. It was produced by The Berry and The Point in Eastleigh, directed by the uncannily brilliant Owen Calvert-Lyons, and was performed in amazing and atmospheric locations all over Hampshire, including Portchester Castle and St Julien’s Chapel, Southampton.
I loved doing this play, with a fantastic cast and creative team. It’s really got me excited about history, and writing about history. Here’s a trailer for the play:

If you missed the live performances, the play was also filmed rather brilliantly. Here’s the first episode:

Finally, the end of the year saw the premiere of my play CRUSHED SHELLS AND MUD. Perhaps of all my plays, this is the one I love the most, and I was delighted with a fabulous, rich, brilliantly-performed and realised production, directed with visionary aplomb by Russell Bolam.

 

  • @ Jack Sain, 2015
  • @ Jack Sain, 2015
  • @ Jack Sain, 2015
  • @ Jack Sain, 2015
  • @ Jack Sain, 2015

And I’m proud to say that Nick Hern Books also published the playtext.

Here’s the Crushed Shells trailer:

If you were able to make it to something this year, thank you for coming, and hope you enjoyed yourself. There’s more in the pipeline for 2016 – watch this space!

And many many thanks to all those gifted and generous people I’ve worked with this year. Too many to mention (but do please explore the other pages on the site for more about the plays and the teams behind them).

Happy new year!

Last week of Crushed Shells and Mud.

  • @ Jack Sain, 2015
  • @ Jack Sain, 2015
  • @ Jack Sain, 2015
  • @ Jack Sain, 2015
  • @ Jack Sain, 2015
  • @ Jack Sain, 2015
  • @ Jack Sain, 2015

There’s only a week left to catch CRUSHED SHELLS AND MUD at the Southwark Playhouse.

I’m so proud of the show. Incredible performances by all of our astounding cast – ALEX LAWTHER, HANNAH BRITLAND, ALEXANDER ARNOLD, SIMON LENAGAN, LAURA HOWARD, CLARE ALMOND. Stunning realised by a top-notch creative team headed by the fantastic RUSSELL

Here are some of the things that have been said about the play (I’ve selected things that focus on the writing, but there’s an abundance of praise for the outstanding, award-nominated performances and production to be found elsewhere).

REVIEWS
Musgrave writes so beautifully: these intricate, intimate moments – psychological dances of persuasion, rivalry and cruelty. (whatsonstage)
‘Teen spirit in the apocalypse… A sensitive portrait of a teenage love triangle…Russell Bolam’s pensive production, with a strikingly rickety design by Ellan Parry, highlights the writing’s strengths. There’s much to admire in the performances, too’ (Evening Standard) 
‘The imagery is haunting, the performances are top class and the progression of the play always keeps us enthralled’. (thereviewshub.com)
‘A heartwarming and heart wrenching portrayal of teenage relationships.’ (Exeunt Magazine).
‘4*s’ (Westend Wilma)
‘4*- ‘this play is infectious… troubling but thrilling …a performance that will stick with you’ (auditorium mag.co.uk
TWITTER
And there’s lots on twitter (from people I don’t know!) including:
‘Can’t stop thinking about #CrushedShellsSP @swkplay last night. A captivating and compassionate play with a stellar cast! Go and see it
‘Gripping, charismatic, heartfelt writing, elegantly played by a vibrant cast – 5*’
‘Intimate and eerie, storytelling at its finest, #CrushedShellsSP @swkplay enchanting set and courageous acting from all. Go see!’
‘Crushed Shells & Mud at @swkplay had me on the edge of my seat. Incredible acting and the 2 hours flew by. Intriguing, dark and haunting.’

Nick Hern Books publishing CRUSHED SHELLS AND MUD

I’m delighted that Nick Hern Books will publish my new play CRUSHED SHELLS AND MUD alongside it’s forthcoming production at the Southwark Playhouse. You can order copies here, and buy the playtext at Southwark itself, or in all the usual bookshops or online retailers.

Nick Hern also published my Bruntwood prize-winning play, Pretend You Have Big Buildings. For more information about that play, please see here.

CRUSHED SHELLS CAST AND CREATIVE TEAM ANNOUNCED

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We’ve just announced an astonishing cast and creative team for Crushed Shells and Mud, my forthcoming play at the Southwark Playhouse:

Creative Team

Director Russell Bolam

Lighting Designer
Richard Godin

Sound Designer
Richard Hammarton

Casting Director
Georgia Fleury Reynolds

Producer
Joe Strickland

Cast

Alexander Arnold

Hannah Britland

Laura Howard

Alex Lawther

Simon Lenagan

 

Crushed Shells and Mud at the Southwark Playhouse

 
I’m delighted to announce that my new play Crushed Shells and Mud will receive its world premiere at the fantastic Southwark Playhouse this October.

The play is presented by Strickland Productions Ltd and directed by the excellent Russell Bolam. 

Casting is underway, so more to follow, but for now, please see:

http://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/the-little/crushed-shells-and-mud/

It’s on 1st to 24th October, and booking has opened (lots of £10 seats available for the previews).

ACROSS THE DARK WATER OPENS AT PORTCHESTER CASTLE

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My new play ACROSS THE DARK WATER opened at Portchester Castle on Tuesday (surely one of the most dramatic venues in England). I’m really proud of it, the cast are fantastic – real artists – and Owen Calvert-Lyons has pulled together a fabulous production. We’ve been getting some really good responses from audiences so far:

“Wow, it was stunning”
“So tense and intense and brilliantly acted…so glad I went”
“Excellent production”
“Fab staging, fab script, fab acting…a must-see!”

The production will now tour to other extraordinary venues around Hampshire. Please see here for further details.

Here’s the trailer for the production:

And here’s me being interviewed about it:

Come and see it!

Rehearsal Trailer

Loads of stuff to update on since a wonderful first week of rehearsals for Across the Dark Water.

A privilege to sit and watch such a fine cast:
Tom Brownlee as Henry
Darrell Brockis as Lord Scrope of Masham
Ben Callon as Edmund Mortimer
Chris Gunter, Richard Earl of Cambridge

There’s also loads of great stuff going on alongside the production – check out the Road to Agincourt website.

And have a look at the rehearsal trailer:

ACROSS THE DARK WATER

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Delighted to announce that my play for The Point, Eastleigh and The Berry Theatre, ACROSS THE DARK WATER, will be performed at diverse venues between Southampton and Portsmouth from July 21st. It will be directed by Owen Calvert-Lyons, artistic director of The Point and The Berry.

More details (dates, venues, booking) here:

It’s a play about the Southampton plot to kill Henry V in the days before the invasion of France (this year is the 600th anniversary of the battle of Agincourt). It’s a fascinating story, and I’ve really got a kick out of getting my head into the distant past. It’s part of a season of work related to the Agincourt anniversary, and you can find out a lot more about this here.