Rifco Theatre Company announces 2021 Rifco Associates

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Rifco Theatre Company has announced their 2021 Rifco Associates in their special 21st anniversary year.

Rifco Associates was launched in 2015 to address the lack of opportunity for British Asian artists in the theatre sector. Since then 25 artists have been supported through the programme from a range of artistic practice including writers, lyricists, composers, designers, aerial artists and spoken word performers. The programme is led by Rifco Theatre Company’s Associate Director, Ameet Chana, who himself, came through the Associate programme.

As a new writing company, Rifco decided, for their anniversary year, to identify new monologue ideas from new and mid-career writers & writer/performers. A call-out for new scripts and treatments led to their largest ever number of applications.

Rifco Theatre Company is thrilled to welcome Nafeesa Hamid, Sarah Isaac, Radhika Jani, Naomi Joseph, Rupi Lal, Guinder Maini, Mahesh Parkar and Apinder Sahni as Associates for 2021.

Nafeesa Hamid is a writer, workshop facilitator, performer, and creative producer active since 2012. She was born in Pakistan, bred in Birmingham. Her debut poetry collection Besharam (2018, Verve Poetry Press) was highly commended for the Forward Prize 2020 and she is published in the Forward Book of Poetry 2020. Nafeesa has performed nationally and internationally; she was a guest for Jo Brand’s show on BBC Radio 4 Friday Night Comedy, as well as a BBC Edinburgh Fringe Slam finalist (2018). She is published in The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write, a (2017, Saqi Books) anthology edited by Sabrina Mahfouz. Nafeesa is alumni of Mouthy Poets Collective (Nottingham), Hippodrome Young Poets (B’ham) and Derby Theatre Graduate Associates (Derby). Nafeesa was founder of Twisted Tongues Derby and Birmingham and co-founder of Gully Collective / Gully Zine; a collective focused on bringing together and showcasing South Asian artists from Brum and beyond.

Sarah Isaac is a playwright who grew up in Yorkshire and now lives in London. She studied philosophy at King’s College London and was a member of the Royal Court’s invitation group. She was part of Kali Theatre’s Discovery Programme and was a finalist for the Script Accelerator Course at the Park Theatre. She has been longlisted twice for the Windsor Fringe Kenneth Branagh Award for new writing and in 2020 was longlisted for The Sultan Padamsee Playwriting Award. Recently, she was chosen to take part in ‘School of High Tide’ at High Tide Theatre.

Radhika Jani is a British-Indian writer-performer from North London and works as the Digital and Creative Learning Assistant at Jacksons Lane. As a writer, she’s enamoured by the coming-of-age narrative. She’s keen to tell these stories, especially with South Asian characters and diverse experiences.

Naomi Joseph is a theatre-maker, actor and writer. Across her artistic practice she playfully explores how big feelings manifest in our everyday lives. The themes of her work have included mixed race identity, bereavement and exploring play in adulthood.

Rupi Lal trained at Rose Bruford College. As an actor his credits include two Rifco productions: Meri Christmas and The Deranged Marriage. Other credits include Tamasha Arts’ Strictly Dandia and BBC Asian Network’s radio drama Silver Street. Since 2007, he’s been working as an Actor / Facilitator for a theatre in education company based in Birmingham, Loudmouth Education & Training. In 2013, he co-formed a writing group, Cucumber Writers through which he’s produced over 10 productions. As a writer his credits include his poem One, a 2015 international competition winner published in Inspired by Gandhi and in 2016, his comedy short Brummie Bat produced by the BBC.

Guinder Maini recently returned to her interest in writing and acting having originally studied drama at college. After college, she moved away from the stage and enjoyed a diverse and enriching career including the charity sector, education, youth work and the civil service. She spent both her professional career and spare time working with prisoners, ex-offenders, rough sleepers, domestic violence victims, and people with substance dependency issues. Her professional and life experiences have been the inspiration for her passion in writing about social justice matters. Often surrounding issues that can be difficult to approach and vocalise between the different generations in the South Asian community. Guinder hopes that her work will have a positive impact to encourage these discussions to take place.

Mahesh Parkar is a musician whose interest in writing has developed over the last 18 months. He been a part of musical theatre projects at the Hackney Empire, such as the Artist Development Programme. He was also part of a theatre company which performed a modern rendition of Macbeth at the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

In September 2019, he took part in a project called the Writer’s Room, run by the Hackney Empire and Royal Court Theatre. He wrote a short monologue, and then developed this monologue into a short play. In May 2020, he became a Young Agitator at the Royal Court Theatre.

Apinder Sahni’s writing journey started at school while studying A-Level English Literature. In December 2010, he created a blog and wrote his first piece for public consumption called Letting Go – The Father of the Bride. He continues to write short stories and poems, however, five years ago he embarked on a journey to write his first novel, a non-fiction piece called The Amazing Road Trip Home – England to India with Strangers. He has two more fiction stories in the pipeline. In amongst all this and over the last few years, he has also been touring theatres across the country with his comedy duo as The Chucklesinghs.

All candidates receive a £500 bursary alongside mentoring support, writer-in-residence days and masterclasses with industry leaders to develop their monologue over the next year. Each of the new Associate pieces will be filmed and made available online as well as be performed in a live showcase event as part of the Rifco 21 celebrations.

Artistic Director, Pravesh Kumar says: “As we celebrate our 21st year we have decided that giving genuine opportunities to new diverse British voices is the best way to come of age. Our cohort of 2021 Rifco Associates are exciting and come from all walks of life, many people who would not venture into this career without this programme. These voices are the future of theatre and this is how we make meaningful change that is truly representative”

Associate Director, Ameet Chana, commented, “It is always very exciting for us at Rifco to get the ball rolling on a new cohort of Associates – developing new ideas from new and emerging British South Asian voices is everything Rifco stands for – without new voices there are no new stories.”

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