Last updated at 09:30, Tuesday, 24 February 2015
A POWERFUL one-man show gets two outings in Cumbria.
Nick Wood’s poignant political drama A Girl with a Book will be performed on stage at the Beggar’s Theatre, in Millom, on Thursday, before transferring to the Theatre by the Lake, in Keswick, on Monday.
Written and performed by Nick Wood, and directed by Andrew Breakwell, the New Theatre Nottingham production is based on the true story of Nobel Peace Prize Winner Malala Yousafza.
In 2012, gunmen stopped a bus in Pakistan and shot three young girls. Their crime? Wanting to go to school.
Knowing nothing about the situation, able to offer little more than outrage, the writer is forced out from behind his desk and in the search for answers to help him tell the story of a brave young woman’s fight for girls’ education, but when his research uncovers attitudes at odds with his liberal convictions he has to face what he learns about himself.
Achieving international acclaim after its opening in Hamburg last September, A Girl with a Book examines Malala’s story through a series of questions, for instance, whether a “middle-aged, middle-class white man” could ever understand the world of a young Pakistani girl.
Using quotes from Malala, the two other girls involved in the shooting and Malala’s father, the writer’s journey attempts to piece together the story and come to an understanding of the issues surrounding it. He speaks to members of different communities, his own wife and even imagines speaking to Malala herself.
During the process Wood remains grounded in his stance as an outsider looking in, picking at the hypocrisy of how we can criticise the oppression of women in one culture but not another – as he struggles with his own prejudice and privilege. He asks how a girl who wanted to go to school could become such a target.
27th September 2014
An excellent review for the Hamburg production of AGWAB. I’ve put it through Google Translate so apologies if you speak German.
Hamburg. Thrilling theater does not take much. A good text, a close look, an empty stage, a few props, a teapot, fruit and an actress who embodies fathers and daughters alike. Christine Ochsenhofer can all In. “Malala – Girl with Book” by British author Nick Wood, which was now under the direction of Clara Weyde in the foyer of the Junges Schauspielhaus the German premiere, it is with spectacles on his nose, leopard-skin boots on the feet and tea bags to the rear wall pfeffernd an author with acute writer’s block.
No wonder with the topic. About Malala Yousafzai they should write, the youngest known human rights activist who has written eleven years, a blog about life under the Taliban in Pakistan, insisted on the right to education and school attendance for girls, was this injured in an attack by a head shot and almost paid with his life.
In search of inspiration, the author listens to BBC News, the sound from arranged on the ceiling speakers. How should they write as white, not religiously defined middle class middle-aged playwright about a topic such as Islam? The research tour begins at the Islamic information booth in front of the department store and fails quickly.
The presentation discusses not only the difficulty of difficult to survey the topic, but also our problems in dealing with it. The conviction “One simply does not fire on three girls because they want to go to school” has been overtaken by reality. The fate of Malalas, which was as a teenager to activist, is a touching plea for moral courage. “If the elders are silent, the children must speak up,” her father Ziauddin, a headmaster says. This is exactly what Malala. And even if the video was cut together something sensational about her fate until much publicized speech before the UN, the production avoids the threat of traps like too much pathos or reservations. Author and director approach the topic with great seriousness, but also lives nearby and humor. The visit is recommended to all, in this country plagued the school fatigue.
‘Many thanks for bringing your show here – (Pegasus Theatre, Oxford.) …it’s a great show, and timely, and provoked some lively discussions. I also loved the young reviewers’ comments, they were incredibly articulate about it.
I’m really proud and delighted we could bring ‘A girl with a book’ here.’
Jonathan Lloyd – Director Pegasus Theatre Oxford.
Three pieces from the Pegasus Young Reviewers.
A Girl With a Book, by Nick Wood
I was sceptical at first; a play about Malala Yousafzai, the girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for trying to attend school, retold from the perspective of a middle-class, white man. I figured the play would be all about the atrocities committed by the Taliban and how awful they all are, without telling the other side of the story. Thankfully, I was proved wrong.
The play artfully intercut quotes from Malala, her father Ziauddin Yousafzai, and two other girls who were shot, Kainat Riaz and Shazia Ramzan. It perfectly imitates the actions and thoughts of a writer; from random Google searches in an abrupt change of topic to endless games of spider solitaire. The writer’s study was also incredibly accurate – haphazard books and papers strewn about everywhere and endless cups of tea, and the objects on stage were used liberally and imaginatively as a pencil became a bullet and a saucer became a titanium plate.
The play explored many important issues, but for me the best thing about it was the fact that the writer didn’t remove himself from the story and acknowledges that the Taliban aren’t the only cause of conflict and death in Palestine and other Middle Eastern countries. He also doesn’t shy away from another question: What makes Malala different?
Ultimately, the play is about a writer trying to tell Malala’s story whilst struggling with his own prejudices and admitting his own privilege, as we all have to do at some point in our lives. As Nick Wood, author and performer of the play said in the Q&A session, “It’s about seeing people not as groups, but as individuals.”
Beth Cole, Pegasus Young Reviewers
A Girl With A Book, by Nick Wood
In today’s world, it can be hard to see beyond the news reports, and even more difficult to shake off our preconceptions of others. We hear every day of Islamic extremists poised to strike at Bagdad: of beheadings, flag burning and bombings. It can seem that the world has truly gone mad. But what about those who stand up against this? What about those who pay terrible prices for being brave? Nick Wood asks these questions and highlights these issues in his new play A girl with a Book.
Malala Yousafzai hit the headlines in 2012 when she was shot in the head whilst returning home from school; and for being an active proponent of women’s education, at just 14. This play is a reflective piece that take us from the narrator’s (portrayed by writer Nick Wood) initial revulsion, shock and questions to finally an understanding of the Malala’s story and the issues surrounding it. The show thoroughly explores the background to this story and at points holds up a mirror to our own hypocrisy on issues. How can we comment on women’s rights in other cultures when our own record is not much better?
Since the writer and performer are the same, every word is expressed with its intended weight and meaning. This piece is in no doubt Nicks own revelations put into words. This quality gives the show a depth of emotion that another performer may struggle to achieve especially the change in tone from a slightly comical opening to a serious thought provoking piece of theatre. In certain parts, if your attention skips, it can be difficult to gage which character is talking. However, it does not take long to get back on track and it is worth it since most of the dialogue in the show is taken verbatim from real events.
It is the after show Q and A that brings a real insight into the production. Although he claims that, the fictional narrator is not himself it is clear that Nick has himself struggled with the questions presented in the piece and the audience discussion quickly turned onto the topics of good vs evil and the right of us to comment on foreign affairs. This is clear enough evidence that the show is successfully pulling off something that all theatre should; it leaves you asking questions. In addition, it leaves you with a few, like: What kind of beliefs would lead someone to be threatened, by a girl with a book?
Gary Clarke, Pegasus Young Reviewers
A Girl With A Book, by Nick Wood
A Girl With a Book is a theatre production written and performed by Nick Wood, an author. The entire show is set in Nick’s office where he writes his books. The play is based on how Nick Wood reacted when, in October 2012, he read headlines: ‘Gunmen stop a bus in Pakistan and shot three girls for standing up for the right to go to school!’
Nick knew he had to do something about it so he wrote A Girl With a Book. This piece was eventually turned into a play. The idea was that the story would be written from the information that an average middle class western man was able to gather purely from news coverage. He describes the process of writing the story.
I was surprised at how interesting he was able to make this play and how he was able to make the audience care more about this situation. I definitely recommend you seeing this play.
NOTE: this play is not a drama and is for 14+ (there is one rude word at the start)
(Also; I don’t advise you taking any food that might be noisy to the show as the audience were dead silent throughout! And everyone around you will be able to hear you eating….this is what happened to my friend)
Lucas Martin, Pegasus Young Reviewers
A thoughtful piece in the academic journal On Religion. Follow the link for the full review.
‘What author Nick Wood has refused to do is accept the narrative of difference. The media is often accused of ‘othering’, making a community (whether here or abroad) so distinct and different that any possibility of a relationship or understanding goes out the window. The easy option when hearing the news of Malala Yousafzai’s shooting is to think that Pakistan is somewhere so distant, inhabited by people so different, that you could never understand why it happened. Wood rather invites us to better understand Malala, her father, and her kinsmen.
The play is not unaware also of international politics – of how US polticial interventionism, drone attacks, and media propaganda all play a role in shaping conflict. It isn’t the centrepiece however; this isn’t a journalistic exploration of the causes behind the shooting, but rather a human endeavour to understand who was involved, the emotional sacrifices they made, and the common experiences that can bring together the world of a middle-aged, middle-class, white man and a young Pathan girl from the Swat Valley in Pakistan.’
Reactions from last week’s tour of Cardiff colleges and Chapter Arts.
Great Stuff – to see that group of young people engaged with an uncompromising and important story. It’s not surprising as it is a compelling story which you communicate with a quiet intensity and integrity which draws people in. Very glad we brought you down. Kevin Lewis – Artistic Director Theatr Iolo.
Theatr Iolo http://www.walesonline.co.uk/whats-on/arts-culture-news/one-man-show-tells-malalas-story-6832687 … Fascinating background on A Girl with a Book from writer/performer
@nickwood39 Catch it @chaptertweets 20/3 7pm
Reactions from The Lantern and Create Theatre.
We’ve always talked about that moment of relaxation when we know we’re in safe hands, and it was intensified on that occasion… within a moment or two, I forgot that I knew him and…was in the proper territory of interrogation and pleasure.
@nickwood39 in today with his tour of ‘A girl with a book’ A powerful and political one man show! @nickwood39 a pleasure to have you and such a thought provoking performance! Look forward to seeing you again soon.
Thanks for bringing the show here last evening – I really enjoyed it, as did the audience I spoke to. It always fascinates me to watch a piece of theatre ‘make itself’ in front of you, as it were, and I think your piece works brilliantly. Thank you for a stimulating and beautifully paced evening. Aly Boag – The Stahl Theatre Oundle.
@nickwood39‘s excellent A Girl With A Book in the Neville Studio last night.’ – Giles Croft – Artistic Director. Nottingham Playhouse.
‘A very thought-provoking and captivating play.’ Amy Davis – third year English student at Nottingham University.
‘The play, the writing , the journey, the story telling , the performance, the power of the work was just wonderful. Thank you so much. I really went on your personal journey. I followed your heart. The power of your honest enquiry – step by step you guided me to the questions we all want to ask – but unsure remain tremulous at the edges. A truly human piece.’ Tanya Myers.
‘A superb reminder (lest we forget!), that theatre is storytelling, and such things as ‘character’ and ‘event’ can be displayed with a combination of directness and deftness, a poetic simplicity that is as efficient as it is beguiling. A fine work.’ Dr Gordon Ramsey. Nottingham University.
‘This is a fascinating piece of theatre, which stayed with me long after I’d seen it. As writer and actor, Nick Wood explores his creative conscience in an honest and thought-provoking way. His play tells the story of Malala Yousafzai but in the telling, asks searching questions of us all.’ Amanda Whittington.
‘It was a journey into empathy and imagination coolly and cleanly done. A crucially important tale well told with great humanity.’ Stephen Lowe.