The VAULT Festival is in town! From January 24th to March 18th, over three hundred new shows explode across a festival of festivals in their Waterloo home. With new venues, new bars, new food and plenty of surprises, VAULT 2018 is the biggest, fairest platform in London for artists to present innovative, daring work. Here we have a chat with Shamia Chalabi & Sarah Henley from Burkas and Bacon Butties about their new play and the relationship they formed while working on it.
How did you first meet?
SH: I first met Sham when she auditioned for my first ever play Getting Out in 2009. She got the part of a ditsy secretary and a butch German PA with bowel issues and the rest was history! She smashed the part and the show sold out and extended for two weeks at least in part because of her comic gold. After the show finished she invited me for coffee with a view to being ‘friends’ – which had never really happened to me before – so I was pretty awkward, but the date went well and fast forward six years and Sham was my bridesmaid! We’ve worked together a few times – she was in my Edinburgh play From Where I’m Standing and I’ve also helped out with her sketch group Jam Sponge, and it’s always been a laugh – and this is our first time writing together.
SC: Back in 2009 I auditioned for a play which I found on casting call pro called Getting Out’ It was Sarah’s first play and the script was hilarious. I was lucky enough to get the part and we had such a laugh doing the show. I really got on well with Sarah and her now husband Tim who was also cast in the play. We’ve collaborated on a lot of projects and are always extremely supportive of each other, but more importantly we always have a laugh!
What inspired you, Shamia, to write about your own personally experiences? How much is true?!
SC: Nearly all the foundations of the play are true, people, relationships, situations (the father, daughter relationship is VERY much like my own!). I feel in life we all act differently when with your parents than with your friends. I personally spent my time between two very different cultural backgrounds so when they crossed over it sometimes created some very difficult and funny situations which have ended up in my play.
What has been your process writing together?
SH: The process this time involved Sham coming with some scenes and ideas inspired by her own life. We then thought about a frame for the piece (the taxi, set over the course of a year) and wrote a rough structure. We took half the play each and then worked up each others scenes to check the voices/tone etc was consistent. We workshopped it a couple of times and new scenes came out of the workshop, and we also took a lot of external feedback (thank you friends and mentors) which gave us good notes for the rewrites. I then gave it a good old cut before this particular version was published!
SC: Basically what she said! I had written some scenes for a writing competition which was held years ago at The Bush theatre. They requested a few scenes from a full play (of course I pretended I had a whole play.. and I only had the title and the couple of scenes I had written!). I got shortlisted and panicked! I carried on writing ideas and scenarios, but needed help from someone with more writing experience and my first port of call was of course SARAH! We discussed a timeline of events and split the play up, we then sent each other what we’d written to edit and amend. The workshops and feedback invaluable, and it was really helpful having Sarah as she’s very strict and knows how to make cuts!
Describe the play in three words.
SH: Full of heart.
SC: Family, Uplifting, Funny…or My First Play….or Scary As F*ck!
Describe the production/audience experience in three words.
SH: Laughs, tears, taxi.
SC: What she said!
What excites you about premiering the show at VAULT?
SH: VAULT is like a mini-Edinburgh. They do an amazing job at making the production low risk in terms of cost which allows you to get something on its feet and just give it a go! It’s in the heart of London so most people can make it down and it will sit alongside some absolute bangers which is very exciting.
SC: To be able to give the show a London premiere at VAULT is very exciting. They’re so supportive and have an amazing reputation for new writing and giving people like us the opportunity to showcase our scripts. It also excites me that I’ll be able to share our show with friends and family who have heard a lot about the project and helped us get to this point.
You’re going to be published in the Nick Hern Books: Shows from VAULT 3 anthology! How does that feel?
SH: Pretty wonderful and a tad scary. Weird to see it written down in print, but very exciting to think that people will read it!
SC: For me this process started approximately six years ago so to be honest the fact that we’re published doesn’t feel real I feel humbled that we were selected, and proud of what we’ve achieved to date. I’m nervous and excited to see what people make of the play.
Burkas and Bacon Butties runs at VAULT Festival from 14 – 18 Feb at 18:00. Tickets and more information can be found here.