Theatre group forged in the ashes of Burnley riots
A GROUP of actors, writers and performers who first worked together in the aftermath of the 2001 Burnley riots are set to showcase a new work as part of a Manchester fringe festival.
Abdul Salek plays the lead in Black Tie, which tells the story of a young Bangladeshi man from Burnley who turns against the advice of his friends, family and community leaders to follow his heart to become a stand-up comedian.
Written by Colin Connor, Black Tie is the result of a year-long partnership between a group of men from Burnley and the Octagon Theatre, Bolton.
It poses the question Comedy or Community?, as taxi driver Abdul discovers some startling revelations about his recently-deceased father.
This prompts him to set about fulfilling his dream of becoming a stand-up comedian — making jokes about his tight-knit Muslim community.
Abdul, 29, from Burnley, works as a creative producer with the Dhamak music project, which runs workshops combining South Asian and western dance music styles.
Ten years ago he was part of Dancing With Razor Blades, a play commissioned by Burnley Youth Theatre in the aftermath of the 2001 riots.
It was performed by a group of men aged 15 to 23 from a variety of cultural backgrounds.
The piece premiered at the youth theatre in June 2003 before a national tour which culminated in a performance as part of the National Association of Youth Theatres’ Festival.
Much of the team which created that work have joined forces once more for Black Tie, which will be staged on July 6 and 7 at the Lass O’Gowrie pub, Charles Street, Manchester.
“The cast has a really good mix of people, of theatre lovers; performers, writers, directors, musicians,” he said.
“We have got a couple of new people too, but as a whole it’s the same group of actors.
"Everybody felt they had something to say and a love of being on stage which forced us together again.
“The play’s message depends on how you look at the piece.
"When we sat down to think about what we wanted to put across in this production, everybody is sentimental about one part of the play with their experiences in the last 10 years — particularly as young people living through the dilemmas of a community.
“Everything that we’ve put in the play is an experience that one of us has had at least once in our lives.
“It’s a rehearsed reading at the moment, but the hope is to take it to production and to take it national.”
Where Dancing With Razor Blades looked at futuristic scenarios for Burnley following the riots, Black Tie — while featuring the same cast — is not a sequel, although it does examine community relations.
And the work is not without its controversies, as the character Abdul jokes about his community.
Does he go too far? “Some people may say we are taking some things too far, but if we as a group could laugh at it then it’s OK,” Abdul said.
The ‘rehearsed reading’ of Black Tie takes place during the Not Part Of Festival, which runs at venues across Manchester alongside the International Festival from Thursday until July 16.