Snookered Q & A with writer Ishy Din

Coming to The Dukes in Spring is Snookered, a subtle, complex, entertaining and truthful play about the inner lives of young Asian men. Writer Ishy Din did a Q & A for Tamasha, the company presenting Snookered. Here are his thoughts on the show and becoming a playwright.

 

What inspired Snookered? Is it autobiographical at all?

There are certainly parts of it that are autobiographical, I think that to make any character honest and real one needs to put ones own experiences, both emotional and physical, into them but then you also have to make the piece dramatic so once the characters were in place I had to find a journey for each character that would heighten the drama.

Because it’s a world that I know really well finding inspiration for character and story was pretty straight forward and I’d always wanted to write something about working class northern British Asian men.

Of course, we know that Snookered emerged after you took part in the Tamasha Developing Artists new writing course – tell us about your journey to Snookered.

Luckily for me a number of things happened around the same time, of course firstly I was on the Tamasha writing course in London, not knowing many people meant that on an evening I would return to my backpackers hostel and out of sheer boredom I’d write short scenes which were usually set in a pub/bar (my hostel was above a pub in Camden) – that’s when really the idea came to me about writing something about some friends playing pool and getting drunk.

The playwright Philip Osment who was a tutor on the course set us a writing exercise where two characters had to use a word from a list he had put up on the board in each line of dialogue they spoke, if I remember correctly one of the words was “black” and somewhere in the list was the word “dignified”, it was at the time of the Barack Obama’s campaign for the Democratic nomination, I chose to write a scene where two guys argue about whether Barack is a Muslim or not, this really cemented the idea of who my characters would be and what their world view was.

I mentioned my thoughts to Sudha Bhuchar, Tamasha’s Co-Artist Director and she suggested that I read Christmas by Simon Stephens, for anybody that hasn’t read it, early on in the play one of the characters uses some really profane language. Having experienced very little theatre I believed that the same constraints applied as those in television as to what your characters could say. After reading Christmas I realised that actually I could have my characters say whatever they wanted as well.

I then re-wrote some scenes where I imagined how my mates would talk if they were in a pub getting drunk and playing pool, we work shopped a scene and on the scratch night and it received a really positive reaction.

At the end of the course Tamasha asked me to write a full length script of the idea and I returned North and started to write, after the first draft Tamasha decided to develop the script further and I was introduced to the lovely Lin Coghlan, together with Sudha and the three of us set about shaping what Snookered is today.

With discussion and questioning of the characters, the story and the structure Lin and Sudha cajoled me into digging deeper into all the elements of Snookered. I think that there were 3 full re-writes and the about 6 versions of the last scene.

I’d come down to London, have a meeting and return energised and ready to go, that usually lasted until I logged on and then I’d think F*$K! how am I going to do this?

But somehow with Tamasha’s support we managed to come up with a piece that I feel all of us can be proud of.

Why do you write?

A friend of mine Steve Chambers once told me that there are only really three moments in writing, the first is when you get the gig, the second when you finish the 1st draft and the 3rd when somebody performs it. I totally agree.

A majority of my time is spent staring at a blank page, chain smoking and thinking why the hell am I doing this? And I think it’s because the stages before and after the chain smoking insomnia are incredible. The process of developing and idea that’s came from perhaps something you have read, or seen or heard or just something that’s popped into your head into something that’s fully formed, with characters, and back story and a plot, a beginning, a middle and an end is a complete buzz.

Working with actors and directors is another reason for writing, I’ve realised that it’s a collaborative process and being open to other ideas and insights adds to what you are trying to do and that process is something I really enjoy.

Who inspires you?

Homer Simpson!

Do you have any advice budding writers?

Learn your craft, (I’m doing this at the moment and I’m assured it never ends), read as much as you can about creative writing, (I found The Crafty Art of Playwriting by Alan Ayckbourn one of the more practical guides).

Try to attend as many courses, work shops and seminars that you can. Free ones are the best!!

You never know when somebody will tell you something that may not necessarily be true but is really useful.

And be prepared for rejection, at least 50% of the gigs I’ve went for have ended up in me being rejected.

What does the future hold for Ishy Din? What else are you working on now? Tell us about future projects!

I’m so glad you asked that question! Hahaha.

Well… I’m just about to start writing the 1st draft of my next play Approaching Empty for Tamasha, hopefully the second in a trilogy I’m writing for the company.

I’ve just been announced the Pearson Writer in Residence at the Manchester Royal Exchange, which is really exciting, it starts in the New Year and I’ll be working closely with them in developing a new play and learning my craft throughout next year.

I’m at the early planning stages of a radio play that I’m developing with Clive Brill at Pacificus Productions

And I’ll be working with Tees Valley Arts on a project with young people up here in Middlesbrough.

At some point in the future I’d love to try and write a something for TV and perhaps a movie but at the moment I just want to get my 3rd moment and see Snookered being performed.

Thanks very much Ishy!

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Meet…Patrick! (Playing Merlin and the Green Knight)

This year’s park show is set to be one of the most magical yet. If you had one magical power, what would it be and why?

To prevent rain until a suitable moment in the show – usually the end.

The show is taking place in Lancaster’s Williamson Park. What challenges or difficulties do you expect to face? How will you prepare yourself for the trials and tribulations of performing in the Park?

A major challenge would be the loss of a thermos flask. In terms of preparation, I will need to identify a secret yet accessible hiding place for my thermos flask.

If you were sent back to live in the Dark Ages, what item from modern times would you miss the most?

A sturdy thermos flask.

What do you like about the story of Merlin and Arthur? Do you have a personal favourite moment?

I like the fact that heart is more important than magic in the story. Decapitation is also fun!

Do you have any previous connection to The Dukes or Lancaster?

I’ve done two previous park shows – Fandango and Hound of the Baskervilles, plus two Christmas shows, The Lost Warrior and The Firebird, and finally Moll Flanders. At the castle, I’ve done Richard III, Hamlet and The Merchant of Venice.

What is your essential item for two months (yes two months!) of rehearsing and performing in Williamson Park?

A sturdy thermos flask (I think we’re noticing a theme here!)

 

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Meet…John! (Playing Arthur)

This year’s park show is set to be one of the most magical yet. If you had one magical power, what would it be and why?

Teleportation- I live in London but no one in my family does.  I would love to be able to zap to Leeds for a couple of hours whenever I had the time.  Avoiding public transport would also be pretty cool. If I had the ability to teleport myself and my girlfriend somewhere really hot, in the blink of an eye, she would be really happy with me.

The show is taking place in Lancaster’s Williamson Park. What challenges or difficulties do you expect to face? How will you prepare yourself for the trials and tribulations of performing in the Park?

Being heard and staying dry are the main challenges.  I will be warming up my voice pretty much whenever I’m not rehearsing or on stage to combat the being heard part.  So if you pass some nutjob in the street making weird noise or blowing raspberries – that’ll be me. And there’s not much I can do about the rain.  I don’t think that King Arthur will be allowed an umbrella!

If you were sent back to live in the Dark Ages, what item from modern times would you miss the most?

Nothing! I’d be well happy living in a castle with my friends and family!  Although if I had a machine gun no-one would be able to take my castle.  I would rule the dark ages with a machine gun.  (Just to be clear, I don’t have a machine gun but I fear in the dark ages I’d have to protect myself and my family).

What do you like about the story of Merlin and Arthur? Do you have a personal favourite moment?

As I write this I have just finished reading ‘The Death of Merlin’ in John Steinbeck’s ‘The Acts of King Arthur and his Noble Knights’ and that was equally gut wrenching and painfully frustrating.  Having to watch someone you respect and admire accepting his doomed fate, unable to stop or change his destiny of eternal imprisonment – that’s pretty powerful to watch.

Do you have any previous connection to The Dukes or Lancaster?

No – this is my first connection to The Dukes and indeed Lancaster.  I’m very excited.

What is your essential item for two months (yes two months!) of rehearsing and performing in Williamson Park?

First, my script. That will be really important for the first three weeks! Once it’s down, I shall be free and the only thing I’ll need is Excalibur! (I will however keep my script for moments of inspiration during the run).

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Meet…Cristina! (Playing Morgana)

This year’s park show is set to be one of the most magical yet. If you had one magical power, what would it be and why?

I would love to be able to teleport. I would save time and money and save the planet too (no fumes or air miles!)

The show is taking place in Lancaster’s Williamson Park. What challenges or difficulties do you expect to face? How will you prepare yourself for the trials and tribulations of performing in the park?

I’ve performed outdoors in the past and I find the natural environment a great place for performance. After all, some of the world’s best dramas happen here – from tornadoes to cactus flowers blooming overnight and lasting only one day! As actors, the challenge is to channel what we do in a way that holds the audience’s attention – there are many distractions in nature!

If you were sent back to live in the Dark Ages, what item from modern times would you miss the most?

Definitely the internet – I love having information at my fingertips.  But perhaps it would be a good thing to live without it and make my brain less crowded!

What do you like about the story of Merlin and Arthur? Do you have a personal favourite moment?

I love the mysticism of the legend and the idea that history so far back can be moulded into something so entertaining today. As we haven’t started rehearsals yet, my favourite moment has to be Morgana taming a snake – at least that’s what I’ve been told I’ll get up to!

Do you have any previous connection to The Dukes or Lancaster?

I played Elka in Quicksand last winter.  It was one of the most memorable productions I’ve been involved with – a warm, welcoming theatre, a talented cast and creative team and a beautiful story, which was stunningly written.

What is your essential item for two months (yes two months!) of rehearsing and performing in Williamson Park?

My lovely Mac computer!

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Meet…Andrew! (Playing Billy Poggie and Gawain)

This year’s park show is set to be one of the most magical yet. If you had one magical power, what would it be and why?

Invisibility – all actors are paranoid so it would be great to hear what people thought without me being there. Think of all the tricks you could play!

The show is taking place in Lancaster’s Williamson Park. What challenges or difficulties do you expect to face? How will you prepare yourself for the trials and tribulations of performing in the park?

I think it’s a real thrill to get up to the park! I reckon I’ll be immensely fit by the time I get to the first show.  I’ve started working out to improve my cardiovascular fitness – I want to do all the fighting justice!

If you were sent back to live in the Dark Ages, what item from modern times would you miss the most?

My iPod! I know it sounds a bit lame, but I can’t live without my music. I currently have about 6000 songs on my iPod and I love them all!

What do you like about the story of Merlin and Arthur? Do you have a personal favourite moment?

I love anything to do with fables, legends and magic but in this story I love the fact that even if you’re not ‘the best’ in everyone else’s opinion, you can still become great because of the nature of your character.  And the comedy in this particular adaptation is great.

Do you have any previous connection to The Dukes or Lancaster?

I made my professional debut playing Lennie in Of Mice and Men in September 2009.

What is your essential item for two months (yes two months!) of rehearsing and performing in Williamson Park?

I need two essential items – my iPod and something warm and waterproof to wear!

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Meet…Joanna! (Playing Guinevere and the Ugly Woman)

 

This year’s park show is set to be one of the most magical yet. If you had one magical power, what would it be and why?

It would be a close call between invisibility (because I’m nosy!) and teleportation but I think I’d have to go with teleportation, particularly if you could transport yourself in time as well as place.  I love the idea of wanting to be in a particular place or country and being there instantly – and never having to brave the rush hour again would be brilliant!

The show is taking place in Lancaster’s Williamson Park. What challenges or difficulties do you expect to face? How will you prepare yourself for the trials and tribulations of performing in the park?

Well, in theory, I’m hoping to do lots of running while I’m in Lancaster, which might help when it comes to dashing between locations in the park!  I’ve never minded the rain (although that might be tested!) but I will be bringing my wellies and my very fetching turquoise cagoule.

If you were sent back to live in the Dark Ages, what item from modern times would you miss the most?

My iPod – unless I could get a portable minstrel.

What do you like about the story of Merlin and Arthur? Do you have a personal favourite moment?

I love how integral and important the audience are in Kevin Dyer’s telling of the story and I love the Barrow Woman’s attempt to introduce modern comedy with her ‘Knock Knock’ joke. I also enjoy Arthur’s journey through the play and how the search for truth and love must overcome the superficial.

Do you have any previous connection to The Dukes or Lancaster?

I spent a very happy Christmas here last year performing in The Snow Queen. I was also born in Stockport which isn’t too far away.

What is your essential item for two months (yes two months!) of rehearsing and performing in Williamson Park?

Well, these are probably a bit obvious but a ‘cag in a bag’ (my waterproof) and some sun cream – because you can never tell!

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Meet…Shelley! (Playing the Barrow Woman)

This year’s park show is set to be one of the most magical yet. If you had one magical power, what would it be and why?

I’d like to be able to fly and therefore not be earth-bound.

The show is taking place in Lancaster’s Williamson Park. What challenges or difficulties do you expect to face? How will you prepare yourself for the trials and tribulations of performing in the park?

I am packing my waterproofs, stout shoes, insect repellent and suntan lotion.

If you were sent back to live in the Dark Ages, what item from modern times would you miss the most?

My bicycle.

What do you like about the story of Merlin and Arthur? Do you have a personal favourite moment?

I like the drama, the big characters, the magic.  My favourite moment is ‘Excalibur’ rising from the lake.

Do you have any previous connection to The Dukes or Lancaster?

I played Branwen, the good witch, in Sleeping Beauty in 2008, and Grandma in The Snow Queen, last Christmas.

What is your essential item for two months (yes two months!) of rehearsing and performing in Williamson Park?

My waterproof cape, which is also a bivouac!

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