BITESIZE FESTIVAL 2024
"I think festivals like BITESIZE are incredibly important because they provide an opportunity for artists to take risks in a proper performance setting."
February 3, 2024
Playwright / Director
IMAGE: NIAMH JONES
It's the day of her brother's funeral and all Nadia wants to do is get the day over with. Just one slight hitch: the body is nowhere to be found.
Hello Mina, thank you for talking to TNC. How does it feel to be at the 2024 BITESIZE Festival with your show Bury Me?
Thank you for having me! It feels amazing, and we all feel very lucky to be in such a welcoming environment, and to be able to bring something so special to us to an audience.
How important are festivals like BITESIZE in creating this unique platform for theatre and comedy?
I think festivals like BITESIZE are unique in that they allow new work to be put in front of a fairly large and varied audience – which in turn means we’re able to work off of the feedback and response we wouldn’t normally be able to get without a huge amount of funding to begin with. So it’s an invaluable experience for us as a company, especially with new writing.
What are you hoping to take away from the experience of being part of BITESIZE Festival?
As a team we’ve been looking forward to working in such a great space at Riverside, alongside so many other productions that share that same passion for live theatre. It’s been a great experience for all of the company to be able to showcase our work and get feedback to improve on!
Can you tell me a little bit about your show, how did Bury Me come about?
Bury Me, in short, is a play about grief and family. I started writing it after losing someone very close to me, and it’s been a sort of refuge whenever I needed to place those emotions somewhere. It’s also a personal exploration of sibling relationships and familial love – which I think are always pushed under the rug in favour of romantic relationships on stage; there’s so much unique warmth, beauty and humour in platonic love that I really wanted to bring out.
There is a really delicate balance between heartache and comedy that gives your play such beautiful depth. The audience is connected to the characters, in all their weirdness, but we never lose sight of the emotional punch. How did you manage to create a show that always seems to tread this fine line of comedy/drama without being too dramatic or soppy?
That’s really heartwarming to hear, thank you! I tend to cope with difficult emotions with humour so it was a matter of translating that into the sorrow surrounding grief. Loss changes you, but the inherent comedy of the human experience doesn’t disappear with grief, it just finds other ways to manifest. It was finding those pockets of humour and joy in such an objectively tragic situation that helps to tread the fine line. I also couldn’t have done it without the inimitable delivery of my cast, who were ready to throw themselves into my absurd characters without hesitation – their delivery is really what makes the comedy work.
All the siblings have names that start with N, was that an purposeful decision?
Yes, but I’m afraid the reason is a boring one! I wanted to keep that aspect of their names because that’s how my parents chose our names – so it’s a bit of a nod to how the sibling interactions portrayed in the show are reflections of my own family.
When a show is running are you always tweaking it?
It’s live theatre so there’s always some sort of tweaking show to show! I try not to change the script once we start the run but everything else is always subject to change: the blocking, characterisations, delivery. I feel very fortunate to work with such an engaged group of actors who take on direction so swiftly and deliver a unique yet consistently poignant performance every night.
"Writing has always been a cathartic experience for me, and sharing that writing, seeing it performed and interpreted by others is an unparalleled feeling – no matter how difficult the subject matter."
What has been the biggest challenges you faced bringing Bury Me to the stage?
The subject matter of grief was always going to bring up difficult emotions – navigating that and making sure I was both present and detached enough to be able to direct something so personal was probably the biggest challenge. The cast was always understanding and their passion for the work was a great impetus to keep going.
Where did your passion for theatre come from?
I started doing theatre as a stage manager in school around 10 years ago, I had a passionate drama teacher who made any role - backstage or onstage - feel like an important creative endeavour. I’m also lucky to have grown up in a family where going to the theatre was always an event, a chance for all of us to get together and enjoy a couple of hours of art in each other’s company (and debrief in detail after!).
How best would you describe your show in 3 words?
I’m terrible at these questions so I asked my cast and they decided to take it *very seriously* with: ‘live, laugh, grieve’ and ‘ready, set, funeral’. I feel like I can’t top that so we’ll leave it there!
Do you have any tips or advice you would offer anyone wanting to get into theatre and what has been the best advice you’ve been given as you started your own journey?
If you want to tell a story, there will always be someone who wants to hear it. Writing has always been a cathartic experience for me, and sharing that writing, seeing it performed and interpreted by others is an unparalleled feeling – no matter how difficult the subject matter. The best advice I was ever given was to surround myself with people who share my passion and drive; making theatre is never and can never be a solo experience. I am so grateful to have found people who are a joy to make theatre with and who enhance my work in every way.
And finally, what do you hope your audiences will take away from Bury Me?
I want people to feel like they can relax into grief a little, it’s one of those things we don’t talk about enough. We all feel it at some point, but it can still be so isolating. It’s easy to get lost in the sadness, and the only way you can pull yourself out of it is to talk about it. It’s been particularly heartening hearing audiences feel comfortable discussing their grief with me after the show – and ultimately, that was always our goal.