Folklore Night, hosted by Pistachio Theatre, took place on Monday 17th of April at London’s Theatre Deli. The evening saw various Muslim artists(Raghad Chaar, Adam Hasyim, Agatha Ezzedine, Shaun Mcenery and Safia Lamrani) sharing folk stories from different countries, followed by an Iftar for all those attending. The event was ticketed, with artists volunteering their time and all profits donated to Islamic Relief.
Ramadan is a time when we especially value community. The abundance of initiatives that exist in London, such as the Open Iftars, The Ramadan Tent Project and Deen and Dunya (created by Azan Ahmed) have been incredibly wholesome and heartwarming, creating spaces for Muslims to feel connected during this holy month. Inspired by these collectives, I wanted to host an event myself which upheld these values and created a space for Muslim voices.
Storytelling has always been a significant part of my life, it has taken shape in many ways and is now predominantly in my career as an actor. I co-founded and run the Pistachio Theatre company with colleague Kitty Evans, with the intention to tell and share stories from many walks of life. Therefore, using this platform to host a specific Ramadan event felt right. We worked with the team at Theatre Deli on organising the event, their hospitality and assistance in putting together the evening was wonderful. We also worked with Sara Alkay who came on board as a producer, and we had assistance from producer Samia Ava.
For the night, we wanted the space to feel reminiscent of a family living room, so created a warm and cosy atmosphere with: cushions, rugs, soft lights, blankets and a candle-lit stage as the centrepiece, with stories at the heart. Each performer took to the stage with a folk story they had chosen, performing in their own unique way. This allowed stories from different cultures to be shared, with touches of both tradition and personalisation.
The evening sold out quickly with a waiting list and saw many people brought together who previously did not know each other or Pistachio Theatre. It felt warm and inclusive, sharing stories and food being a special and universal way of connecting. Each performer lit up the room with their story, as we showcased folktales from Morocco, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Indonesia. Folk stories differ in their style but the shared appreciation and playfulness in their telling feels universal.
I spoke with audience members afterwards about what drew them to this event, especially those that were not familiar with Pistachio Theatre. Many shared with me that they had been looking up Iftar events online and came across ours, wanting to spend Iftar with other Muslims fasting and meeting new people over a shared meal.
Performing at this event felt empowering. I hosted the show as well as shared a Moroccan folktale which I felt proud to share. Representing Moroccan stories on stage is a key facet of the work I want to produce with Pistachio and so to do so alongside several other Muslim performers, hearing their stories was inspiring. Adam Hasyim, one of the performers shared: “It was very exciting to perform in such an intimate setting (literally the audience/listener next to me) re-telling a very much loved folktale from Indonesia to an international audience. Feeling like it was just my living room back home. And to top it off, it was pre-iftar storytelling during Ramadan, a month that promotes togetherness, sharing and a sense of community. I have always wanted to collaborate with Safia and Pistachio Theatre Company, and this was a perfect event to do just that.” This captures the atmosphere we were hoping to create and the sense of community for both audience and the performer.
The storytelling lasted an hour and finished just before Maghrib. Then, together we broke fast and shared a delicious meal, catered by Royal Kitchen. After the performances, everyone then told stories of their own over food and we continued to eat and converse into the night. Spaces like this create such warmth, and it was an honour to host one and hopefully the first of many, inshallah.
Photos by Maiya Sabapathy