Pole Factor

Should Muslim girls pole dance? Playwright and theatre director Nazish Khan, tackles the issue in her new production, premiering at the Edinburgh Festival. 

Posted: 05.08.13

The title ‘Pole Factor’ is rather intriguing. Tell us more!
It’s about a Muslim pole dancer who exchanges the face of Islam for the face of a celebrity. She makes it her religion, but it’s not exactly going to answer her prayers...

Is there a specific message you’re trying to express through this play?
One of the messages is that just because someone is Muslim, we don’t necessarily have to speak as one collective voice. There needs to be more of a spectrum for people to be outspoken. 

The concept of reality television, is also part of the plot, are you a fan?
The protagonist Sameera Mohammed aka Coco decides to star in a reality TV show called Pole Factor. In my view, reality television is the same as junk food, it’s a quick fix for what it does but it has no nutritional value. If you’re lucky a couple of you will make something of yourself but that’s it. We all enjoy junk food, who doesn’t? But if you live on a diet of junk food, what’s going to happen?

Tell us about the theatre company Angry Bairds Productions that you run.

It was set up by myself and Sophie Foster. One of our concepts is to create theatre that makes you feel slightly uncomfortable. I could sit discuss my views on religion around a dinner table, but it’s only when you visualise it, and tell it in the form of a story that you make people think about it. 

The minute I say, Muslim pole dancer, it tends to raise an eyebrow. But I’m not actually writing this piece because I want to be famous, or want to cause controversy. I want people to think, and it does make people a little uncomfortable Muslim people can react quite badly to anything that isn’t what they feel is conventional.

When did your interest in theatre develop? 
I’ve always had a love of theatre. I was always a bookworm, a reader, a storyteller so always knew that at some point I would definitely be engaged in story telling. I think there’s something magical about being able to put a couple of people in a room, without special effects or anything, and inspire and engage them. 

The cast of Pole Factor

What other issues are you interested in that you would like to write a play about?
I am going to explore mental illness. I’ve written something related to schizophrenia. Mental illness is something that I think the Asian community, does not acknowledge. It’s something we automatically shy away from.

Any advice of anyone aspiring playwrights?
Be true to yourself. See as many plays as you can, write as much as you can. If you believe in something, do it.

Pole Factor by Angry Bairds Productions is on at theSpace on the Mile, Venue 39 from 12th-24th August as part of this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe. 
Interview by Saloni Saraf

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