Finsbury lecturer’s play inspired by the refugees he met in Hackney

A university lecturer has penned a play about asylum seekers which he hopes will challenge stereotypes.

Shamser Sinha, 39, based his first-ever play on research he conducted about refugees he met in Hackney while working at City University in St John Street, Finsbury.

Mr Sinha, now a lecturer in sociology and youth studies at Suffolk University, said: “I was taken by the way they were living their lives like other young people with the same aspirations and hopes, but they had another load on top about removal and detention.

“People who are discriminated against are normally portrayed as victims or objects. I wanted to show them as young people who have a strong appetite for enjoyment, even for things that we might consider banal.

“When you see life’s extremes as they do, you have a hunger and passion for it.”

His play Khadija is 18 is about the lives of two teenage refugee girls who live in East London, but are negotiating the trials and tribulations of friendship, love and sex while being chased by immigration authorities.

He penned it after he saw a competition by ANGLE Theatre, Elizabeth Avenue, Islington calling for new voices in 2009.

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His script was one of five out of a hundred entries to win.

Ironically, he had only seen one play prior to writing his script when a friend “dragged” him to see a production called Torn at Arcola Theatre, Ashwin Street, Dalston.

The play, which is about the divisive prejudices between Africans and Caribbeans in the British black community, inspired him.

He said: “It reflected how people were living and I did not associate theatre with that. I was not attracted to theatre as I did not think it had anything to offer me.”

After winning the competition, he has been on attachment as a writer at the Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square, Belgravia and has also been commissioned by ANGLE Theatre to write another play called Chicken N’Chips.

Mr Sinha said he was excited about seeing it performed for the first time, saying: “I want to see what effect it has. I’m trying to get people out of their seats, while showing them how these young people are similar to other young people.”

Khatija is 18 will debut at the Finborough Theatre, Finborough Road, Earl’s Court from November 1.