Theatre: Homing Birds, Tara Theatre, Earlsfield and Kali Theatre, Deptford

Two theatre companies which focus on supporting Asian artists have joined forces for the first time to create a play about family, home and roots, writes James Twomey.

Tara Theatre, based in Earlsfield, and Kali Theatre in Deptford have crossed the south of the city to present Homing Birds.

The play features a young doctor, raised by an adoptive family in Britain, who returns to Afghanistan – to reconnect with his roots, to help rebuild the country of his birth, and to find his long lost sister.

Reversing the usual refugee story clichés, it shares the hopes, fears and aspirations of a young man searching for a place in which he feels he truly belongs.

Young Afghan refugee Saeed desperately wants to reconnect with his roots and find his long lost sister and he leaves his adoptive family in London and returns home to Kabul to work as a doctor, eager to contribute to rebuilding a new Afghanistan.

But as past and present collide, Saeed is forced to face up to the reality of his changed world, and the play asks if a place can ever be home without a connection to family and roots.

Mona Khalili and Jay Varsani in Homing Birds from Kali Theatre. Photo Robert Day

The production marks Kali Theatre’s first production at Tara Theatre – two multicultural companies joining forces for the first time.

Kali Theatre has been leading the way in developing and presenting new theatre writing by South Asian women for more than 25 years, engaging audiences with thought-provoking new plays which reflect and comment on modern lives.

In the past four years it has presented 34 new plays in 219 performances to more than 16,000 people.
Writer, playwright and translator Rukhsana Ahmad co-founded Kali Theatre with director Rita Wolf in 1991 and was artistic director of the company until 2002.

Rukhsana said: “Audiences around the UK have responded so warmly to Homing Birds whilst on tour, so I am excited for the play to come to Tara Theatre. Helena Bell – the director, and the cast and creative team have created such a beautiful production, offering a glimpse into other lives and places.

Writer and playwright Rukhsana Ahmad

Essentially, it is a play about the notion of home, so I hope it speaks to audiences and they open their hearts to it.”

Homing Birds director Helena Bell said: “We share a universal human instinct to find a home, somewhere we can relax and feel safe, and although we may have more than one place in our lifetime that we refer to as home, our most powerful feelings are often connected to memories of our childhood.

Homing Birds speaks to this need to ‘home’ and what happens when that drive is disrupted by war, famine or exile.

With insight and empathy, Rukhsana’s play takes us beyond the generalisations, clichés and statistics that regularly surround the refugee crisis.”

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