EVERYTHING THEATRE Podcast: Immigration, Refugees and Understanding
Mahad Ali on his play My Brother’s Keeper
Relentless Productions and Theatre503 present
Two refugee brothers. A small British town hostile to immigration. My Brother’s Keeper charts a story of love, pain and learning in building community.
Refugee brothers Aman and Hassan are dispersed to live in a British seaside town. In desperate need of business, hotelier Bill Bradley and his son Aidan agree to house them but face animosity from their community for doing so. As Aidan takes Aman under his wing and they draw ever closer, they soon learn the utopia they create for themselves in the hotel is no match for the real world and must confront the hostile climate they live in.
My Brother’s Keeper explores the politics of immigration, religion and sexuality as a small British town tries to find its place at a time of great change in the world.
Relentless Productions is a new theatre company founded by Layla Madanat & Mahad Ali. It aims to bring diverse stories to the stage that challenge, provoke thought and motivate action on issues pertinent to the times we live in. Whilst providing a platform for creative talent from underrepresented backgrounds to thrive.
Running time: 2 hours 15 mins (inc. 15 minute interval)
Age guidance: 14+
Content information: This show contains themes that some audience members may find distressing. If this sounds like it could apply to you, you can view content information here or the full care pack here.
Allergy warning: Please note this performance contains real plants as part of the set.
14 February 7.30pm WRITERS NIGHT: A chance for writers to enjoy a discounted ticket and meet our literary department and the writer of the show. Attendees to Writers Night are invited to submit for our Rapid Write Response initiative. To unlock a £6 ticket, email firstname.lastname@example.org to be digitally tagged as a writer. If you have previously been tagged as a writer, your ticket will automatically adjust to £6 on the final page of booking – you do not need a Promo Code. If you are unable to attend our Writers Night, the £6 tickets will also be available up until Saturday 18th. There will also be a Zoom session with Mahad Ali, writer of the play on Wednesday 8th February at 7pm, followed by a drop-in on Zoom with our Literary Manager, Steve Harper from 8pm. Please register your attendance for this here.
1 March 12pm PARENT & BABY: Provided as an opportunity for parents and/or guardians to enjoy a spot of theatre without the need to hire a babysitter. Please note, we do not exclude other audience members from booking to see this performance.
4 March 2pm PRE-SHOW DISCUSSION – USING THEATRE TO HELP BUILD COMMUNITY: Join us for a discussion with Compass Collective and Wandsworth Welcomes Refugees on how we can use theatre to build greater understanding, richer networks and new communities with those who have arrived as refugees or asylum seekers. Join us in the discussion on how this can look in practice in Wandsworth and further afield, and how we can ensure it’s done sustainably and to its full potential.
Mahad’s play ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ was selected and developed as part of Theatre 503’s 503Five programme. The play was also longlisted for the 2018 Alfred Fagon Award. He was also a part of the inaugural Tamasha Theatre Playwriting group and has had performances at Stratford Theatre Royal Stratford East, Rich Mix, Park and Soho Theatres with Tamasha and Paines Plough. Mahad had several pieces published in the anthology Hear Me Now: Audition Monologues for Actors of Colour published by Oberon.
Mahad is currently part of BBC Writers Academy 2021, where he will work on continuing drama series and develop an original project with one of the BBC’s independent production companies. Mahad’s play the ‘Beginning of the End’ was selected for the Top 100 Longlist for the 2013 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting
Mahad Ali on his play My Brother’s Keeper
Theatre Weekly presents My Brother's Keeper rehearsal shots
New cast announced for Theatre503 and Relentless Productions’ My Brother’s Keeper
For those who may not be familiar with your previous work, could you please introduce yourself?
I’m a writer for stage and screen, most recently with the BBC Writers Academy. My Brother’s Keeper was selected as part of their 503Five programme and alsolonglisted for the 2018 Alfred Fagon Award. I was fortunate to be a part of the inaugural Tamasha Theatre Playwriting group and having worked on stage at Theatre Royal Stratford East, the Rich Mix, Park and Soho Theatre’s with Tamasha and Paines Plough, whilst also having several pieces published in the anthology Hear Me Now: Audition Monologues for Actors of Colour published by Oberon.
In February your brand new show, My Brother’s Keeper will open at Theatre503 in Battersea Park Road. How are you feeling about seeing your work brought to life?
Incredibly proud. The idea started as a paragraph pitched to Lisa Spirling, Steve Harper and Lauretta Barrow as me being part of the theatre’s 503Five programme. This was over five years ago but like a lot of theatre programming there were setbacks with the pandemic. However, with the story being one which speaks to the times we are in, there was a huge passion about getting it on the stage. So, to see it grow from a seed of an idea to a full production is beyond exciting, if not for just giving voice to a story we always see in the papers but we don’t hear from the people so often spoken about.
Where did the inspiration for this piece initially come from?
A mixture of things really. I’m the child of Nigerian and Somali parents so I understood well the challenges those feeling from conflict faced in the 1990’s, but the environment was very different to what it is today. So fast forwarding years later and seeing the level of hostility towards migration, particularly from black, brown and Muslim countries – it was something I wanted to unpick, to get the bones of the truth of the story. I was particularly interested in what it meant as a refugee to settle in a place you’re unfamiliar with and that relationship you have with the local community.
Can you tell us a little about what audiences can expect to see?
Two families who live in the same community but wouldn’t usually speak are forced to live with one another side by side. They argue, they fight, and they love. We go on a roller coaster of emotions with no punches pulled. The characters are forced to face their own fears with no place to run. The play takes the concept and the idea of what community really means in Britain in the 21st Century, as often our community is the people who we eat with and socialise with. What are the possibilities and what would happen to your world if you had to do these things with strangers who have just arrived here? Would your world open up or come crashing down?
My Brother’s Keeper is set to explore some sensitive topics such as immigration, mental health and sexuality. Why do you think it is important for new work to explore these topics, many of which still seem to be somewhat avoided in theatre?
We’re at a point where we think we’re a really progressive society and that we’ve solved all of our issues on race, gender, sexuality, religion, etc. Only for us to turn around a few years later to find out that we are back where we started because we haven’t kept asking ourselves the tough questions, which theatre does. They don’t have to be trauma pieces, but theatre that explores the love, pain and joy of these things are so important.
What do you hope audiences take away from a trip to see My Brother’s Keeper?
For me it’s this idea of community, that it isn’t just people who look like us but everyone who lives within it. That we each have our own stories and journeys, and while you may not agree with everything, you’re at least willing to go away and hear someone else out.