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Q&A with Hannah Khalil about her play ‘Bitterenders’

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Hannah Khalil was the winner of the 2013 Sandpit Productions’ Bulbul Playwriting Competition. You can see the first London reading of her play here on 18th September, buy tickets now!

Q1/ Bitterenders is a dark comedy. Why did you pick this genre as a way to tell this story?

I’m a big fan of the work of Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman and the humour in Bitterenders is definitely inspired by some of his work. Beckett is also one of my favourite authors and there are parallels to be drawn between the absurd, cyclical and painful situations his characters find themselves in and the characters in Bitterenders – and yet both lead to a very dark, universal humour.

When I read the true story that led to the premise for Bitterenders it also reminded me of an episode of the television comedy from the 1970s Steptoe and Son. For those unfamiliar, it’s about a father and son who live together and their constant battles. In one episode they fall out so badly they split the house in half with a line down the middle – with hilarious consequences. And I very consciously thought about that when I was planning this play.

Bitterenders Photo: Liz Hyder

 

Q2/ Do you use your own personal experience or background to help shape the stories that you write?

Yes absolutely. My first play about Palestine, Plan D, drew on testimonies of people who lived through 1948 to make an allegorical story about what happens to normal people when the teutonic plates shift and their land is taken from them by force. My subsequent play Scenes from 66* Years is solely made up of stories given to me by people who saw Plan D (or from my own family’s stories) about their own experiences of life under occupation or in exile, to create an epic snapshot of life in Palestine yesterday and today.

Also, my father told me many stories about growing up in a small village in the West Bank, and the situations and characters he described always creep in there – whether I’m aware of it or not as I’m writing.

Bitterenders 2

 

Q3/ You have written a number of plays for radio, is the writing process for radio different to writing for theatre.

That’s quite hard to pin down actually. I’m not sure. It certainly starts in the same place – a good story, which for radio you distill down even further than you do in theatre. And then, I suppose when you are writing the thing rather than picturing the stage space and actors in it speaking the words, instead you just have a little voice in your ear saying all the words… So I suppose the difference is that with theatre you use your visual imagination when you are writing and radio your aural imagination. Either way your listening to voices in your head!

 

Hannah Khalil will be performing a reading of her play Bitterenders at The Mosaic Rooms on 18 September. Find out more and RSVP here.

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7/04/1718/06/17