Plays by Fin Kennedy

The Domino Effect

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Fin Kennedy’s The Domino Effect is an ensemble play for teenage performers developed by Kennedy with his long-term collaborators, Mulberry School for Girls in Shadwell, East London. Incorporating dance and physical theatre sequences, the play revolves around a central character who is mute, and explores ideas about fate, self-determination and the law of unintended consequences. It was first performed by Mulberry Theatre Company at the 2014 Edinburgh Festival Fringe on 4 August 2014.

The play is set in the East End of London. Amina Rahman is fifteen and never speaks – a silent protest against a world in which bad things always seem to happen to good people. Instead, she retreats into fantasy. But when her mother walks out, Amina is left to fend for herself. It takes an ancient set of dominoes, and a mysterious antiques dealer, for Amina to discover her power. The antiques dealer teaches her how small actions lead to big effects, and how to master the law of unintended consequences.

In an introduction accompanying the published text, Fin Kennedy writes: 'The Domino Effect was conceived in summer 2013, while on a short break in France in which I watched again one of my favourite films, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie. Hang on, I thought. This is a Mulberry story. Set in the inner city, with a teenage girl at its heart, Amélie is about an introvert with an overactive imagination, which starts to spill out into the real world, until even she isn’t sure what is and isn’t real. I often met young women like this in Mulberry, and it seemed a good opportunity to develop a play looking at the interior worlds of these more introverted students (who are also not always the easiest students to engage in Drama). I started to wonder, what would an East London version of Amélie look like?'

The Mulberry School production was directed by Shona Davidson and designed by Barbara Fuchs.

The Dream Collector

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Fin Kennedy’s The Dream Collector is an ensemble play for teenage performers, the fifth developed by Kennedy with his long-term collaborators, Mulberry School for Girls in Shadwell, East London – but this time also involving students from a second local school, St Paul’s Way Trust School in Bow.

It was first performed by Mulberry Theatre Company, as the inaugural production at the Mulberry and Bigland Green Centre, in November 2013, with a parallel premiere production performed at St Paul’s Way Trust School in December 2013.

The play follows a school group who go on a Media Studies trip to an isolated country house which once belonged to a movie pioneer, Charles Somna. Upon arriving, they discover that Somna was responsible for much more than the creation of mere movies – as the inventor of the Somnagraph he had built the world’s first machine for screening your dreams. Once they step through the movie screen and enter the Dreamworld, each of the young friends meets their dream double, the sinister Neverborn.

In an author's note published with the script, Kennedy writes: 'The play has been written for sixteen young actors aged fourteen to sixteen. One group is a ‘Real World’ twenty-first-century group of school students from East London. These eight all have names and individual identities. The other is an ensemble cast of eight who inhabit the ‘Dream World’. They are known as the Neverborn. Their world is like a black-and-white film, and is stylised and movement-based. They bring to life the other cast’s dreams, and share lines as a chorus. Each Real World cast member has a Neverborn who shadows them, and plays them in their dream sequence. This means there needs to be a minimum of eight Neverborn, but there could be more if a larger cast is available.'

The Mulberry Theatre Company production was directed by Shona Davidson and designed by Barbara Fuchs and Afsana Begum. The St Paul’s Way Trust School production was directed by Kelly Jasor.

Fast

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Fin Kennedy’s play Fast is an ensemble play for teenage performers commissioned by Y Touring, an established theatre company that produces and tours plays for young people about complex, science-based issues. It explores issues around fasting, diet, food production and food security. The play was workshopped at Regent High School in Camden, London, before being performed as part of a young people’s summer school run by Y Touring on 22 August 2014.

The play is set among a group of Year 11 classmates (fifteen to sixteen years old) of mixed social backgrounds, in an unnamed state secondary school, in a medium-sized British town, near to some countryside. Cara, a sixteen-year-old student, is from a farming family, and we learn that one year previously her father had killed himself. When Cara’s school holds a twenty-four-hour fast in aid of Oxfam, Cara decides she will not eat again until Tesco’s and the other suppliers, whom she holds responsible for driving her father to suicide, are held to account.

The Y Touring premiere was directed by Dominique Poulter and Nathan Bryon and designed by The Company.

How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Fin Kennedy's How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found is a play about identity and the traces we leave on the world around us. It won the 2005 Arts Council’s John Whiting Award and was subsequently staged at the Crucible Studio, Sheffield, with performances from 23 March 2007.

When Charlie, a young executive, reaches breaking point and decides to disappear, he pays a visit to a master of the craft in a seafront fortune teller’s in Southend. Haunted by visitations from a pathologist who swears he is already lying flat out on her slab, he begins a nightmarish journey to the edge of existence that sees him stripped of everything that made him who he was.

In an article included in the published edition, Fin Kennedy writes that the idea for the play came from looking at the website of the National Missing Person's Helpline, and from his subsequent discovery of a guide to changing one's identity entitled How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found. 'Leaving one's former identity behind and starting over seems to be an almost existential act; a yearning for good faith in a world which fetishises the fake. What makes you authentic? And how do you know you're real? These may not be new questions, but they are more relevant than ever, and no less terrifying – or unanswerable.'

When the play was awarded the 38th John Whiting Award for New Writing, it was the first time that the prize had been given to an unproduced play. The script had reportedly been rejected by nearly every theatre in London.

The Crucible premiere was directed by Ellie Jones and designed by Ellen Cairns. It was performed by William Ash, Richard Bremmer, Sian Brooke, Esther Ruth Elliott and Steve Hansell.

The production was revived at the Southwark Playhouse, London, on 8 October 2008.

Mehndi Night

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Fin Kennedy's Mehndi Night is a play about resentment and forgiveness on the eve of a wedding, and explores the challenges of a cross-cultural identity in 21st-century Britain. It was the first play to emerge from a groundbreaking collaboration between Kennedy and the Mulberry School for Girls in Tower Hamlets, East London. It was first performed by students from the school on 2 August 2007 at Venue 45, Edinburgh, as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

The title of the play refers to the traditional pre-wedding Hindu celebrations. Akin to a ‘hen’ night, it is a time for the female members of a community to gather together to sing, dance and bless the bride-to-be. However, when an uninvited visitor turns up bringing with her painful memories of the past, everyone is forced to confront their own fears, prejudices and longings.

In an author's note in the published edition, Fin Kennedy writes that the play 'marked the first time in British theatre history that a play had been written entirely for and about British Bangladeshi women. This was very much a result of the way in which the play was developed, with ten committed fifteen-year-olds over several months; their desire to create a play for a mainstream adult audience about the women of their community, and the effect of the modern world on their relationships with one another.'

The Edinburgh Fringe premiere was directed by Julia Voce and designed by Kollodi Norton. It was performed by Marjana Rahman, Khadija Sharaz Khanom, Nabarupa Deb, Sabina Aktar, Thania Sultana, Rubena Begum, Farhana Hussain, Aklima Begum, Fahmina Begum and Rebeka Yasmin.

Protection

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Fin Kennedy’s first play, Protection, is a behind-the-scenes look at a team of social workers and their clients. It was first performed at Soho Theatre, London, on 3 July 2003.

The action of the play takes place amongst a Family Support Social Services Team in a British inner city. Angela breaks the rules to get things done, her way. Shirley misses the old days, when protection came without a price. Their manager, Gordon, is having an affair with Angela whilst claiming on expenses. And as for newcomer Grace, it’s a struggle simply not to annoy anyone.

In an author's note in the published script, Fin Kennedy writes 'Social commentary [on the level attempted in the play] appears to have become unfashionable amongst writers of my generation. This troubles me. It is as essential a part of a democracy as a free press. In the current climate of increased centralisation of power, it has become nothing short of urgent. It is also a genre at which theatre excels. I’d like to think it offers a social service of its own. I hope that this play goes some way towards reviving the tradition.'

The Soho Theatre premiere was directed by Abigail Morris and designed by Tom Piper. It was performed by Saira Todd, Joe Armstrong, Corinne Skinner Carter, Lucy Davenport, Matthew Delamere, Margot Leicester, Kellie Shirley and Martin Turner.

Stolen Secrets

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Fin Kennedy's Stolen Secrets is a collection of short, dramatised urban fairytales – bold, lyrical and often gleefully gruesome – that can be performed individually or together, according to the needs of any production. It was developed in collaboration with students at the Mulberry School for Girls in Tower Hamlets, East London, and first performed by students from the school on 11 August 2008 at Venue 45, Edinburgh, as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It was the second play presented by Kennedy and the Mulberry School for Girls, following the success of Mehndi Night in 2007.

The play comprises seven sections: Intro, Pillow Fight, Make 'N' Mend, Mrs Jones, Not a Girl, My Silent Sister and Outro. In an author's note to the published edition, Kennedy explains that the sections can be 'performed individually or omitting one or two, allowing different running times but without greatly affecting the overall narrative. (However, if two or more secrets are to be performed together I would recommend retaining the Intro and Outro for use as a framing device.)'

Kennedy also writes that 'It was a deliberate decision not to write another overtly ‘Asian play’ after Mehndi Night. Instead, we used a direct-address ensemble storytelling style to place the cast as narrators on the stage action – thereby freeing them up from the naturalistic necessity of having to play characters who look like themselves. In this way, a group of mostly Asian, teenage girls were able to play cocky young men, elderly white women, policemen, fathers and brothers.'

The premiere production at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe was directed by Julia Voce and Camille Cettina and designed by Kollodi Norton. It was performed by Parvin Akhtar, Nabilah Begum, Rabia Begum, Kim Hashi, Sultana Islam, Munirun Nessa, Yasmin Sadek and Fahmida Siddika.

The Unravelling

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Fin Kennedy's The Unravelling is a dramatic fable about the power of the imagination. It was developed in collaboration with students at the Mulberry School for Girls in Tower Hamlets, East London, and first performed by students from the school on 10 August 2009 at The Space UK (Venue 45), Edinburgh, as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, following the success of their previous collaborations, Mehndi Night (2007) and Stolen Secrets (2008). The Unravelling was the first of the Mulberry School plays to win a Fringe First Award. The Scotsman called the collaboration ‘one of the best writer/education partnerships there is.’

The play is set in an East London fabric shop. A dying mother challenges her three daughters to weave her a great tale, using nothing more than the pieces of cloth in her shop. However, as they begin to weave they realise that the prize is much more than the shop: it is the power to write their own futures. By summoning up worlds around them out of thin air, the daughters discover the power to change the course of their lives, and the shop itself takes on a metaphorical resonance.

The Edinburgh Fringe production was directed by Camille Cettina and designed by Barbara Fuchs. It was performed by Tamanna Hussain, Shalma Hussain, Rufia Begum, Suhena Begum, Rabia Begum, Nurjahan Bibi and Farihah Begum.

The Urban Girl’s Guide to Camping

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Fin Kennedy's The Urban Girl’s Guide to Camping is a comedy about life, love and friendship once school is long gone. It was developed in collaboration with former students of the Mulberry School for Girls in Tower Hamlets, East London, and first performed on 14 July 2010 at Southwark Playhouse, London. It was the fourth play to be developed by Kennedy with Mulberry School, and the first to premiere in London; the previous plays – Mehndi Night (2007), Stolen Secrets (2008) and The Unravelling (2009) – had all been premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

With university over, four young friends decide to leave the city behind and head into the wilderness in order to re-experience the trip of a lifetime. They head to Ashdown Forest, home of their childhood memories. However, an unexpected storm heralds the outpouring of a secret that threatens to tear their lives apart as the forest reveals a mystery all of its own.

In an author's note in the published edition, Kennedy explains how the development process for the play differed from previous Mulberry School collaborations: 'Rather than being developed through practical workshops with school-age students, Urban Girl was the result of a series of round-table discussions with a specially convened Advisory Committee of former Mulberry students (and some staff), mostly young women in their early twenties, either at university or starting careers. Rather than ‘training the group up’ as potential performers for the show, these meetings were much more of a discussion among equals about what this year’s play could be. ... For my part, I started with a provocation. I put it to the committee that representations of young British Asian women in our media were woefully lacking; they were either oppressed, exotic, or (occasionally) extremists – or the wives or sisters of extremists. This simply didn’t chime with anything I had experienced at Mulberry in the four years I had been there. We agreed to do something about it.'

The Southwark Playhouse production was directed by Luke Kernaghan and designed by Barbara Fuchs. It was performed by Rumi Begum, Rumina Kamal, Farzana Parvin and Sultana S. Jahan.

Picture of Fin Kennedy

Fin Kennedy is a graduate of the MA Writing for Performance programme at Goldsmiths College, London and is the Co-Artistic Director of Tamasha Theatre Company.

His plays include Protection (Soho Theatre, 2003); hip-hop musical Locked In (2006); We Are Shadows (2007) both for Half-Moon Young People’s Theatre and How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found (Sheffield Crucible, 2007), which won the Arts Council’s John Whiting Award, the first time in forty years that an unproduced script had won the award.

Fin is an Artist-in-Residence at Mulberry School for Girls in Tower Hamlets, London, where he is co-founder of Mulberry Theatre Company, for whom he wrote the plays Mehndi Night (2007); Stolen Secrets (2008); The Unravelling (2009 and winner of Edinburgh Fringe First Award) which all premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe; The Urban Girl’s Guide to Camping (Southwark Playhouse, 2010) and The Dream Collector (Mulberry School and Bigland Green Centre, 2013). Other plays include The Domino Effect (Edinburgh Festival, 2014) and Fast (Y Touring Theatre, 2014).

As well as writing plays, Fin also has many years of experience teaching playwriting at secondary, sixth-form, undergraduate and postgraduate levels. He has worked for schools, youth clubs, local authorities and theatre education teams in inner London and beyond, and is also a visiting lecturer at Goldsmiths College and Boston University.