What are the themes of your play?
Football, friendship, fatherhood, masculinity, hopes and dreams, the healing power of community. These are the things I wanted to talk about and I thought a council estate was the best setting through which to discuss these issues.
Why did you write it and why now?
I wrote this play (my first ever) in March 2021 when COVID rules were still quite strict and we weren’t allowed back to university. Hence, I was at home in East London, back in my childhood bedroom and inspired by the East London landscape, I started thinking about the community around me. I go to university in Cambridge, which is a world away from Newham, the deprived borough I grew up in. There’s so much pain and suffering there but also hope and magic and I felt like no one has done it justice in literature so far. Heroes is a love letter to my hometown, a world that is seldom seen on the theatre stage. I wanted to discuss contemporary issues that plague my area, such as knife crime, and humanise the victims of these tragedies. We often see these stories being sensationalised on the news and in the media but people rarely take the time to peel back the curtain and see who the victim was before they became a headline. Stephen Lawrence Day was also coming up so I think the issue was weighing even more heavily on my mind. Ideas about masculinity and fatherhood, as well as what it takes to be a ‘good man’ were at the forefront of my mind and particularly, how you can grow up to be one if you’ve never seen one. You can’t be what you can’t see. As for the football element, I live right next to West Ham stadium in the Hammers heartland and its one of the things I associate most strongly with my own father. It’s a sport that carries so much emotional weight in this country, as seen in the Euros this past summer.
Which playwrights are you influenced by and in what way?
Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams and Harold Pinter are all-timers for me. Miller for the way he wrote about the common man, shedding light on the plight of the average family, just trying to get through life. That was something new and refreshing to me as a reader. I think the way Williams based his works off of his own life, such as his family members, and seemed to use it as a way to process his emotions is very similar to the function my writing carries out for me. Harold Pinter as another East End writer writing about a world that was familiar to me in a language I could understand and with such concise yet hitting dialogue was a revelation. The two biggest influences on this particular play were Roy Williams and Jez Butterworth. I knew I wanted to write an ensemble play and both are masters at that. They both also have such a Britishness to them and interesting ways of exploring that national identity. I wanted to do a similar thing with Heroes’
What do you want to achieve as a playwright?
I’ll start small and say that I’d just like to write another play, ideally. That would be the dream. Long-term, I want to write about the communities I care about and tell stories I think no one is telling, in order to make theatre a truly welcoming, democratic space. I want to write plays that 12 year old me would have loved to have seen. I want to write plays that my refugee grandmother feels represented by. I want to make audiences think with my work. I want to make people laugh. And cry. And laugh. But above all, I want them to be angry. I want it to spark a fire deep within them. I want them to be riled up at the state of the world and feel the sting of injustice, just like my characters do. And I want them to leave the theatre questioning the current state of affairs, asking themselves “What can I do? What has to change?” All of my favourite pieces of art are ones that changed me in some way, that made me see the world differently, that scratched an itch I didn’t even know I had. If my plays could do this for even one person, I’ll count myself a success.