Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Helena Bell: Sundowning

By | Published on Friday 12 October 2018

Coming up at Tristan Bates Theatre is a new production from the acclaimed Kali Theatre, who, as you probably know, focus on the work of South Asian women. The latest show, ‘Sundowning’, is written by Nessa Muthy, and has been directed by the company’s artistic director Helena Bell.

To find out more about the play and its development, I spoke to Helena, ahead of the London run.

CM: Can you start by telling us a bit about the narrative of the show? What story does the play tell?
HB: The play tells the story of a family of three women: Betty has Alzheimer’s and her daughter (Teresa) and granddaughter (Alyssa) have very different views on how to care for her, which erupts when Alyssa kidnaps Betty from her care home.

CM: Who are the primary characters of the piece and who plays them?
HB: Betty is played by Hazel Maycock with Aasiya Shah as Alyssa and Nadia Nadif as Teresa. They create truly compelling, believable characters caught up in a wholly human situation that gets increasingly out of hand.

CM: What are the main themes of the play? Are there specific issues it seeks to highlight?
HB: How best to care for our elders, specifically people living with dementia. No answers just questions. Overall, it’s a love story – full of feeling – funny, frank and very moving.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the playwright?
HB: Nessah Muthy is an award winning, extremely gifted young writer of dual heritage, raised in Tadworth, Surrey. We met around 8 years ago when she was a student and she had submitted a striking short play to my previous company (Pursued by a Bear). We produced that piece and for the last four years have been slowly developing ‘Sundowning’ together.

CM: How have you been involved in the development of the play?
HB: We both spent several months researching and workshopping in care homes. Then it was a case of responding to each new draft, workshopping with actors and presenting several rehearsed readings to get feedback from audiences.

CM: What’s next for the production, after the run at Tristan Bates Theatre?
HB: We’d like to create a film.

CM: You’re currently the Artistic Director of Kali Theatre. How did you come to take on the role?
HB: I worked with Kali in its early years, directing several productions including Rukhsana Ahmad’s acclaimed ‘River On Fire’ and have continued to return to the company over the years as a freelancer. Kali has always felt like a home and a second family to me.

CM: Do you have any specific plans for future productions?
HB: Yes – Rukhsana and I are working on her latest play – so lovely to be coming full circle with her on that. It’s a haunting, hugely evocative piece set in Afghanistan and the UK, which asks what it means to leave your country of birth and settle elsewhere, and will be touring next Autumn.

CM: What’s coming up next?
HB: We’re developing and showcasing the work of twelve brand new, hugely exciting playwrights with our partners at Birmingham Rep, Leicester Curve and London’s Pleasance Theatre.


‘Sundowning’ is on at Tristan Bates Theatre from 16 Oct-3 Nov. See this page here for details.

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