Trilogy of plays tell of migration, resistance and progress

NW Trilogy Kiln Theatre

NW Trilogy runs at Kiln Theatre Kilburn until October 9. - Credit: Marc Brenner

Kilburn's Kiln Theatre has commissioned three short plays reflecting Brent's diverse communities. Opening this week, NW Trilogy features Moira Buffini's Dance Floor, set in a Cricklewood Irish dance hall in the 60s, Roy Williams' bittersweet Life of Riley which draws on the Trojan Records reggae label of the 70s, and Suhayla El-Bushra's Waking/Walking on the 1976 strike by Asian women at Dollis Hill's Grunwick plant. We asked co-director Taio Lawson about the project.

NW Trilogy

NW Trilogy, Aoife McMahon, Claire Keenan in Dance Floor - Credit: Marc Brenner

Q: Three plays by three playwrights set in three different communities who share the same borough - what was the idea behind the project?

A: The commission was part of the Brent Borough of Culture, whilst already on the journey of collecting oral histories. So, even before the commissioning process we had discovered historical moments of significance that were inspired/lead by people from these three different communities. We gave these to the writers and asked them to find the stories they wanted to tell within those perimeters. 

NW Trilogy

Chris Tummings in Life of Riley part of the NW Trilogy - Credit: Marc Brenner

Q: What are the themes which emerge from the trilogy?

A: So many. Of course the plays have their own voices and themes, but across all three we see conversations between generations about their different definitions and expectations of progress and resistance. The significant and often uncelebrated role that women have played in our borough's history. And, of course, how migrant communities have made a home here during times of really hostile rhetoric against their presence. 

NW Trilogy

Ronny Jhutti (Deepak), Natasha Jayetileke (Anjali) in Waking/Walking part of the NW Trilogy - Credit: Marc Brenner

Q: The former Trojan Records site is at the end of my road, yet I knew nothing about it. Is there an element of recovering forgotten history in these stories?

A: Very much so, and that’s one of the wonderful things about what we do. We can help to bring attention to forgotten aspects of history in order to inform the progress we want to make in this country. Know where you’ve been in order to know where you’re going. 

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Q The stories are exploring spaces where migrant communities found solidarity, self-expression and made a contribution to the wider culture.

A: When a character in ‘Life of Riley’ talks about Trojan Records helping to bring reggae to the whole world, that is not hyperbole. In the moments we talk about wanting to stand up for workers rights in ‘Waking/Walking’, the event we are discussing was a moment of solidarity where previously there had been animosity between races and cultures of the same class. However, outside the Grunwick Factory in the late seventies, we witnessed the unity of the work-class - no matter your age, gender or race - which was truly formidable. 

Q These historic events are told through human relationships; a love story, a father/daughter bond, a wife and mother torn between duty and principle.

A: It sort of had to be in order to discover what the plays were. Investigating isolated events are what museums are for. Theatre has to look at aspects behind and around an event and centre something humanistic in order to tell a story. 

The NW Trilogy runs at Kiln Theatre until October 9.