10 Nights & Muslim Theatre, Shahid Iqbal Khan

The theatre production 10 Nights is the latest offering from acclaimed writer Shahid Iqbal Khan and is perhaps his most unique work yet. The comedy-drama staged at Bush Theatre in London until November 6 revolves around a man who decides to take part in itikaf; is sleeping and fasting in the mosque for the last 10 nights of Ramadan, but soon regrets that decision and is forced to confront a side of himself he’s been trying to keep hidden.


To get a bit more background on the production, we talked toShahid Iqbal Khan about writing, inspiration and Muslim theatre.

10 Nights - Production photographs by Ali Wright

 

How did your journey as a creative writer begin?

It’s difficult to pin down the exact beginning. I’ve always liked writing. I liked writing reviews and journalistic articles. Then when I lost interest, I started to drift towards poetry and playwriting.

Who you spend time with is an important factor. Your friends and companions in creative circles can inspire you and encourage you. So meeting wonderful and vibrant people through organisations like Manchester Muslim Writers (now Muslim Writers North) and Phizzical Productions was really useful in helping me stay motivated and interested in creative writing.

What is the inspiration behind 10 Nights?

I observed itikaf 11 years ago. This gives me an experience, a template, to work from. But 10 Nights is mostly fictional.

10 Nights - Production photographs by Ali Wright

 

Is telling stories about Muslim faith and identity on stage important and why did you choose to do so?

I’m Muslim and I’m a playwright. So it’s natural that stories about being Muslim, my background, and my faith will surface in my work. Just as other aspects of my intersectional identity no doubt will surface in my work, past, and future. It’s very common for a playwright’s faith or background to materialise in their work. For example, Tom Stoppard explores his Jewish heritage in his most recent play Leopoldstadt.

It is perhaps still uncommon for Muslims to tell their own stories. Non-Muslims, from writers to actors, tell our stories for us. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, I do believe in creative freedom. But it’s important that more and more Muslim writers take charge of the narrative so that we can start to see more and more authenticity.

10 Nights - Production photographs by Ali Wright

 

When writing, do you keep your audience in mind and what do you hope they feel after watching 10 Nights?

Yes, I do keep them in mind. I think it’s a natural part of the playwriting process to think about the stage, the actors in that space on the stage, and how, or if, they will engage and interact with the audience.

I don’t believe in controlling the audience’s feelings. I try not to do that as a writer. But I hope they are glad to have watched it and that they find something in it that resonates with them.


10 Nights - Production photographs by Ali Wright

 

Congratulations on being appointed to a year-long writing attachment with the Royal Court in London and theatre company Graeae. What does this opportunity mean to you?

Thank you! It means a safe space to explore, create and fail. Graeae and Royal Court are brilliant organisations, and although they are distinctly different organisations, a lot of their values and principles do cross over. I feel comfortable and at home with both of them and that’s really important to me as an artist.

What do you think the future of Muslim theatre looks like, and how can we work towards your vision?


I would love it if theatre had a diverse range of stories from the Muslim culture. I would encourage writers to flag up self-censorship, to be conscious of it, and to notice when it happens. We become scared of what our family and friends will think of our work, and that fear dilutes our voice.


10 Nights is at the Bush theatre, London, until 6 November.


Follow Shahid Iqbal Khan on Twitter


The views of the interviewees who are featured in Bayt Al Fann do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Bayt Al Fann, its owners, employees and affiliates.