Meet the Shortlist- Sami Ibrahim

The European Hare
By Sami Ibrahim

‘If I told you that hares can speak you wouldn’t believe me. But they do. This one does. Its mouth all vipers. It speaks. In its own language. And it says: Tell your husband, the one who hunts us, who hounds us, tell him to fuck off.’

Somewhere in Norfolk, a family is under attack – from luxury houses to the south, to the hares in the underground, to the land beneath it. As earthquakes strike, the hares plot a revolution to overthrow the humans. All the while, the humans argue over their own petty relationships: who should stay, who should go, and whether this old house on an old patch of land deserves to stay standing.

Sami is a young writer from London. His play TWO PALESTINIANS GO DOGGING recently won Theatre Uncut’s 2019 Political Playwriting Award and is featured in the Royal Court’s 2019/2020 season. Before that, his play WIND BIT BITTER, BIT BIT BIT HER had a run at VAULT Festival 2018 – after it was shortlisted for Soho Theatre’s Tony Craze Award and longlisted for Bruntwood Prize 2017. He has had short plays performed at The Bunker (Pint Sized’s October Fest 2018), as well as Southwark Playhouse (Little Pieces of Gold, 2018), The Yard (First Drafts 2017), and the Brockley Jack (Write Now 7, 2016). This year, he was commissioned by Oxford School of Drama to write WONDER WINTERLAND – a final piece for third year students, performed at Soho Theatre. He is currently a writer-in-residence at Shakespeare’s Globe and has been on attachment at the National Theatre Studio and Theatr Clwyd.


What inspired you to write this play?

The play’s set around Norfolk, and it’s a part of the world I’ve had to travel to a lot recently because my partner has been teaching out there. I spent countless journeys staring out the train window and became fascinated by the landscape and the folklore of the whole region. From there, I just started sketching out initial ideas and slowly realised I wanted to write something about land, and the competition for land. The whole piece sort of clicked together when I stumbled upon the idea of telling the story of the play from different perspectives: there’s the perspective of the humans, the perspective of the hares, and the perspective of the land itself. And it felt like I’d stumbled across something exciting when I realised I could examine our relationship with land from a point of view that was wider than just a human one.

I wrote the piece whilst doing Tamasha’s Playwriting Programme. And it was incredibly helpful having the whole group there to ask questions about the piece. It took ages to develop the ideas, but it was really important having other people there to ask questions from an early stage – it felt like fuel to push it all forward.


Can you tell us a bit about your journey as a playwright?

I’ve been writing for a few years now, but didn’t start doing it properly until I got to university. And then once I got the bug, it was impossible to shake off. I’ve been lucky enough to put pieces on at scratch nights, short play nights and festivals, and I’ve just steadily been trying to write more and experiment more. I think it’s basically been a slow and ongoing process of stumbling around in the dark until I felt like I’d hit on something that makes sense – and expresses whatever it is I want to express.


How do you feel about being shortlisted?

I knew when I started work on this play that I wanted to submit it to the Bruntwood Prize – the deadline is one of those things I keep in my diary – so it feels incredible to find out the play has made the shortlist all these months later. Whenever the shortlist is announced, I always get very jealous of the successful writers, so it’s a very surreal feeling being on the other side of that. It’s a massive honour – and confidence boost – to know the play made it through all those stages.


What do you think about anonymity of the Bruntwood Prize?

It’s brilliant. It was really freeing knowing that I could submit something without any pre-judgements. When I was writing this play, I had a lot of questions and worries in my head about whether I was working on the “right” play. Which is a stupid thing to think, because there’s no such thing as the “right” play. But equally I was worried that people expected certain things from my writing: I’d just finished something that was very political and erratic and funny, so there was something a bit scary about trying something completely different. The Bruntwood Prize was a great way of dumping all those worries and simply having my play judged on its own merit, without any weight of expectation. So, yeah, in a word, it’s brilliant.


Published on:
23 Oct 2019


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