Writing/theatre experience includes:
2010-2013 Dramaturg for the shows Neither here nor there (by Maggie Rose) and The Return (by Sergio Pierattini), Lega lAliens Theatre Company, London.
2013 Bengs Piro, Radio play
2014 Script consultant Radio series, Crossed Fates.
Several short pieces of fiction published on-line and in the magazine Margin.
Why did you write the play and what inspired you?
I always wanted to write a story set in Grenada during this period in the island’s history, as it was a momentous event in my family’s personal story. Speak to any Grenadian and they will tell you about the hurricanes – Janet in 1955, Ivan in 2004 – and the American invasion of ‘83. This desire became more pronounced when the thirtieth anniversary commemoration of Operation Urgent Fury rolled round. There seemed to be a real ambivalence about how to remember these events: liberation or invasion? When the CIA declassified documents pertaining to the episode later that year, the press examination of those papers focused entirely on the fracturing of the “special relationship” (between Regan and Thatcher, America and Britain). Few column inches were spared for the lives lost and irreparably fractured by the conflict itself. I am always deeply affected by the fate of “small people, ordinary people” snared in the jaws of events beyond their control. I watch cars on a highway in Basra, as tanks home into view, and wonder if their occupants are on the way to school, market or mosque. It was with these sentiments in mind that a year ago I came across an article in a Canadian magazine about a bomb inadvertently dropped on a mental hospital during the Grenada invasion. How often have we heard the words “collateral damage”? A painfully familiar narrative… That article gave me the incident around which to build the play. Grenada and its little explored story speak not only of the past but of a grimly recognisable present: regime change, democracy enforced at the point of a gun, collateral damage it. They all began here.
Where would you like your play to be performed?
Like most playwrights I dream of the Olivier and its potential for the spectacular; however I would be honoured to simply be produced anywhere, as I believe the interpretation of any work is limited not by scale or budget but by imagination.
What do you want audiences to take from the play?
The poet and philosopher George Santayana said “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” This never seemed more prescient every time I turn on the news or pick up a paper. I hope Manhattan out to sea will perhaps show audiences how even the smallest acts of international aggression, if unchallenged, can become a bloody blueprint for future conflict. I also hope it the audience will laugh, as humour and song are a big part of what makes the people of Grenada special.
Which playwright/writer do you admire and why?
I have huge respect for Lorraine Hansberry. Her only play, A raisin in the sun, has rightly become the seminal classic of black theatre. Its themes of transition – social, cultural and familial – are present (I hope) in my own work. It is also peopled by characters I recognise, full of humanity and dignity, absent the tiresome staples of the black theatrical experience: martial men and women who either break or enforce the law. Like Hansberry, I want to write about underexplored lives, those of men like my dad, a pre-Windrush era migrant who helped rebuild London. More recently I have greatly enjoyed the work of Lucy Preeble, in particular Enron, for its imaginative and boldly theatrical language.
What do you want to achieve as a playwright?
As a playwright I want to create characters and stories that have an enduring appeal. I am keen to address what I perceive as a less than nuanced portrayal of in particular black men. Theatrically, I want my eleven year old nephew to see the lives of the men who have helped raise him represented on stage. At the same time I hope to accomplish the difficult task of transcending the strictures of race, gender and class in my work, breaching the glass ceiling so often imposed on black writers.