Red Ladder Theatre Company makes its return this autumn and winter with new touring production My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored, the gripping stage debut of 29-year-old Ghanian-English writer Nana-Kofi Kufuor. His first play is an urgent interrogation of black identity, in which a question is posed: if you see something you do not agree with, do you intervene?
What happens if you’re a teacher, and the issue is with your student? What happens if you’re outside of work, and see them stopped and searched and manhandled by the police? Do you run over and stop the act, or do you watch, and wait to find out all the facts? This is the case For Gillian Akwasi, a black twenty-something teacher who watches while her student, Reece Ofori, is roughly accosted by the police. The next day, he confronts her – locking them both in her classroom at the end of the school day.
Kufuor draws influence from his experiences growing up in Stockport with Ghanian parents, and working in education with young people from a range of backgrounds. Revealing the real-life situation that inspired his hard-hitting drama, Kufuor explains,
“Working at a Pupil Referral Unit, I once had a student try to take a knife to stab another student. Once I’d calmed him down, we sat in the canteen and he explained to me he wasn’t going to go quietly. The police were outside and they took him. I saw him a few weeks later, and he asked why I didn’t help him? That rush of guilt changed to anger and quickly to sympathy as he saw me as his protector. But I knew I couldn’t do anything. The crux of this play is how two people react to the same situation: they go on a journey; a journey a lot of people of colour go on – a realisation that where you are now isn’t necessarily where you come from.”
My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored was developed as part of a year-long writing commission for Box Of Tricks and staged as a rehearsed reading at HOME in January 2020, where it was seen by Red Ladder’s artistic director Rod Dixon. For five decades Red Ladder has been producing new writing by voices whose work is often unheard on our stages, and the Leeds-based touring theatre company is thrilled to be developing Kufuor’s thought-provoking play for its first tour.
Red Ladder’s artistic director Rod Dixon, says, “We’re very excited to be working with Nana-Kofi Kufuor; this important play eard But It Was Ignoredaddresses key issues about race and identity at a time when society needs to heal division and strife. We’ve brought together a fantastic creative team, including director Dermot Daly, and look forward to taking this new work on tour – welcoming back audiences in theatres and community venues in a safe way.”
Directing My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored for Red Ladder Theatre Company is Dermot Daly, a Leeds-based actor, director, filmmaker, dramaturg, lecturer and teacher whose extensive credits for stage and screen include work with Leeds Playhouse, Slung Low, Talawa, Theatre Royal Stratford East, BBC, ITV and Channel 4.
The play is performed by Jelani D’Aguilar and Misha Duncan-Barry.
My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored premieres at Leeds Playhouse (26-28 Nov) and tours to The Dukes, Lancaster (2 Dec), Grove Hall (3 December, Red Ladder Local) Cast, Doncaster (4 Dec), Oldham Coliseum (5 Dec) and Cluntergate, Horbury (6 Dec, Red Ladder Local).