Could you introduce yourself and She Is A Place Called Home to the reader?
I’m Esohe Uwadiae and I’m the writer of She Is A Place Called Home. I developed the play on the VAULT Festival New Writers Programme, and recently finished the Royal Court Writers Group.
The show follows two British Nigerian sisters as they navigate their Dad’s decision to get another wife (as in, in addition to their Mum), and what that means for their faith, family and future. It explores many different themes, most notably clashes between culture and faith, the experience of eating disorders by black women and non-physical forms of domestic violence.
What was your writing process for She Is A Place Called Home?
I started writing the play about two or three weeks into the VAULT Festival programme, and once the play was done I received feedback on my draft from Camilla Whitehill who led the programme.
As part of the programme, we got to showcase our work at VAULT Festival, which allowed me to see what worked, what didn’t and to really question what I was trying to achieve. A few months after that, Queen Mary Theatre Company debuted a condensed version of the show, following which I could further see how audiences were reacting to the material and refine the play even more.
I very much found the story as I wrote it. There are three major storylines that the play revolves around, and once I’d identified what these were, it was easy to plot them out to ensure that they were developing in the way they needed to.
What do you think are the differences between how we view family and marriage in Britain and Nigeria?
From my personal experience of Nigerian culture, marriage is seen as a fusion of families to a greater extent than it is seen in Britain. For example, when I was growing up, I wasn’t just raised by my parents, it was done in a style that was much more communal.
One of my favourite things about my family is how if something good happens to one person, then it’s happened to all of us and there is this expectation that everyone will share in that joy as though it were their own. This is reflected in the play as the sisters are preparing a dance for their Dad’s wedding, as the expectation is that even though he is the one getting married, it is everyone’s day, and so everyone should actively participate.
Having said this, every family regardless of whether they are Nigerian or British is different and will structure themselves in their own unique ways, and that’s really nice.
How much of yourself do you see in the work?
I do see a lot of myself in my work, but not because the play is auto-biographical. Rather, I tend to use my own experiences as a starting point that I fictionalise and build upon. It can be anything from a particular feeling I had as a teenager, to a conversation I had with a friend. For instance, when I first began writing this play, the sisters were actually rehearsing a dance for their older sister’s wedding, rather than their Dad’s, and in my actual life I’d been doing just that for my sister.
Additionally, I want to write stories that I can relate to, be it the themes that are addressed or the traits of the characters. So again, I will draw on things I’ve seen and people I’ve met while doing this.
Could you explain what Solace Women's Aid do and why you chose to partner with them?
Solace Women’s Aid is a London-based charity that offers free advice and support to women who have experienced domestic and sexual violence. This support ranges from therapeutic services, such as counselling, to refuges. They also run a number of campaigns, such as their Christmas campaign ‘Women With Nothing’ which aimed to collect supplies for women who arrive at refuges with nothing.
As the show explores several forms of non-physical domestic violence, such as financial abuse, we wanted to partner with Solace in order to raise awareness of their life-saving services. At the end of each show, we will also be collecting monetary donations, as well as toiletries, to support their work.
In complicated and dangerous times like these, how important is sisterhood to you?
It’s so important. For me, my sisters also include my close female relationships, people I have chosen to be in my life and to who I owe so much. There’s something about speaking to someone and feeling seen by them, in a way that is completely free from pity and judgement. It’s incredibly easy to end up in spaces where your experiences are invalidated, leaving you questioning whether you are making things up.
It’s also important because my sisters are such a source of inspiration and support to me. They make me want to do more and achieve more, while also acting as my biggest cheerleaders, reminding me of who I am and what I’ve done when things are hard. I’m so lucky and so blessed to be surrounded by so many wonderful women, I don’t know what I’d do without them.
What's coming next for you and the play?
We were recently shortlisted for the Untapped Award, a partnership between New Diorama Theatre, Underbelly and Oberon Books. If we’re successful, we’ll be heading to Edinburgh in the summer which is incredibly exciting, so fingers crossed.
We’ve also had interest from a few other venues, so watch this space.
Where can people find you online?
We’re @sheisaplace on Twitter and @sheisaplaceplay on Instagram.
Tickets can be found here: https://vaultfestival.com/whats-on/she-is-a-place-called-home
She is a Place Called Home is performing at VAULT Festival from 3-8 March. Tickets are available here.