10 Nights opens tonight! To mark the return of this Olivier Award Nominated play, we have a personal note to share from the writer, Shahid Iqbal Khan, from a monologue, to dramaturgy and writing the full play and now seeing Phizzical Productions touring the show around the UK.
I wrote 10 Nights on the Write To Play programme. It was a year-long programme led by Graeae Theatre in partnership with Bush Theatre, Tamasha Theatre, Soho Theatre, Talawa and Ovalhouse. I was paired with my mentor and dramaturg Oladipo Agboluaje. I learnt a lot from Oladipo during this year. He was interested in dialogue with dramatic action. I realised that much of my dialogue was general chatting. He helped me sharpen up my skills and to think about dialogue at a deeper level – its function, purpose and subtext.
My first assignment of the year was to write a 10 minute monologue. The monologue had a rehearsed reading at Soho Theatre. My next assignment was a duologue and I chose a completely different story. The final assignment of the year was to write a full play. I thought I may as well develop the monologue from my first assignment and turn it into a full play.
I retained the monologue form. The concept of Itikaf and the form of a monologue seemed to fit together like a glove. In a monologue, you can allow for space, pause and reflection, in a way that isn’t possible with a different form. The topics of mental health, friendship and grief arose organically as the play progressed. It was like putting bricks together. One brick led to another brick and then it led to another.
I finished the play and submitted it to Graeae. We then had a rehearsed reading at the Bush Theatre. It led to a lot of interest. The interest led to a Graeae-Tamasha co-production staged at Bush Theatre in October 2021. That was a wonderful production and I have so many lovely memories from that run.
However, being a northerner from Bury, I have always craved for the play to be seen outside of London. Which is where Phizzical Productions came in. I have a wonderful association with this company that goes back many years. They are like family. They have supported me in my playwriting journey right from the very beginning. They produced my very first play The Smile of Despair and it had a 2-day run at Attenborough Arts Centre in Leicester. I learnt so much about writing. It was invaluable. I wish every emerging playwright could have support like this – to be able to see your own play on its feet in a production with a paying audience.
The journey over the past few years has been really exciting. I feel very blessed. In 2022, I undertook a year-long attachment with Graeae and Royal Court, which also involved working on a co-commission. I like to keep myself on my toes and challenge myself with different forms and different genres. For my commission with Almeida Theatre, I am writing a political drama. I am also writing a farce for the Octagon Theatre (as part of the NT Peter Shaffer Award). I have been awarded the Peggy Ramsay / Film 4 bursary and this means that I will spend this year on attachment to Paines Plough. So, as you can see, lots of things are happening and lots of ideas are bubbling away!
Coming back to 10 Nights, I am really excited for everyone to see this new production. The play is set in the North, in the heart of a Muslim community. I hope that this current tour is just the beginning. We will bring the play even further up north one day. Inshallah.
10 Nights was developed through the Write to Play Programme by Graeae Theatre Company, with dramaturgy by Oladipo Agboluaje, and premiered at the Bush Theatre in 2021 in a co-production with Tamasha Theatre Company.
“An Olivier Award Nominated Play” & finalist at the Offies Awards.