Writers: Erinn Dhesi, Corinne Walker, Danielle Fahiya, Stefanie Reynolds and Kamala Santos
Directors: Gitika Buttoo, Alix Harris, Catherine Robinson and Niloo-Far Khan
Podcast drama series The Waves is the latest collection from Tamasha Theatre Company using five short, commissioned plays to explore the impact of Britain’s colonial history. The plays, all written and directed by female creatives and set around the UK, use different prisms to reflect on contemporary identities, prejudice and disconnection between past and present.
Some of these begin with a humorous concept like Erinn Dhesi’s Queens in which a statue of Queen Victoria in Leamington Spa comes to life, a metaphysical experience that transports a grandmother and her granddaughter back in time to re-live the family’s arrival in the UK and the difficulties the grandmother experienced as a young woman in an arranged marriage trying to get by. While the story peters out slightly towards the conclusion, Queens sets the tone for inter-generational explorations of trauma and the struggle for acceptance.
We See No Colour by Danielle Fahiya also begins with humour, placing twins Aisha and Nia in a Cardiff beauty pageant who find their different skin tones affect their progress. Asking questions about racism dressed up as liberality, this well acted play directed by Catherine Robinson uses a local radio station, interviews with pageant organisers who claim not to see colour – a theme that resonates across the stories here – and conversations between the sisters to consider the destructive impact on their relationship, the creation of individual identity and systemic prejudice.
Two plays use a new home in Bristol and Manchester respectively to think more deeply about previous residents and colonial influences. Corinne Walker’s Grosvenor Road directed by Alix Harris contrasts a modern London couple enthusing about the design of a Bristol flat, entirely disinterested in Estate Agent Elliot’s attempts to explain its Caribbean-British heritage, with cut-backs to a young couple in the 60s whose marriage struggles are affected by the prejudice they experience and whether activism and protest is the right approach to win rights.
Likewise, Stefanie Reynolds uses a converted former cotton mill in Manchester to consider the extent to which modern generations consider the use and wider associations of these buildings. The Baby Mama of the title finds her black identity charged by encounters with a cleaner who argues the past is the past and should be forgotten. Reynolds takes her protagonist Renee on a journey that leaves her re-evaluating her life and the dismissals of white husband James who disregards both Renee’s heritage and that of the cotton mill.
Kamala Santos Glory Glory: An Edinburgh Story by Kamala Santos, also links contemporary racism with a history of bigotry dating back to the Second World War. Set at a football match, a 16-year-old meets her grandad Victor for the first time and hears about the arrival of Belize lumberjacks in 1942 and attempts to prosecute local women who fraternised with them. With a policy of repatriating those deemed ‘unsuitable’ for British identity, Santos’ story has a strong political resonance with the events of recent weeks.
Together these plays reveal various contemporary responses to Britain’s colonial history and the multiple communities it represents. From a more innocuous lack of understanding revealed by the granddaughter in Queens to the blanket refusal to acknowledge the relevance of the past in Grosvenor Road and Baby Mama, as well as the pointed statements of We See No Colour and Glory Glory: An Edinburgh Story, The Waves is a reminder of the struggle of pioneering generations and, in drawing direct connections between grandchildren and their grandparents, how they inform the present.