Don’t Wake Me: The Ballad of Nihal Armstrong is the unforgettable true story of a mother and her disabled son; a dramatic and poetic testimony to the magnitude of motherlove.
An event celebrating Carers’ Day in National Disability History Month
The Department of Theatre and Performance and Oberon Books present the book launch and performed excerpts from Rahila Gupta’s play, Don’t Wake Me: The Ballad of Nihal Armstrong.
Rahila Gupta is a journalist, playwright, writer for film, an anti-racist and feminist campaigner and longstanding member of the pioneering collective Southall Black Sisters. Don’t Wake Me, her ‘ballad’ (with its timeless folkloric associations of a story to be passed on) is a love poem to her son Nihal who died at seventeen years of age in 2001 just before taking his GCSE examinations. The hospital’s mishandling of his birth had left Nihal with cerebral palsy (CP) unable to speak with his physical voice and with little control over his movements. It becomes a lifelong battle to prove that his silence is not impaired intelligence – which his mother indefatigably proves again and again – to the generally sceptical medical and educational specialists.
Don’t Wake Me adds a fresh dimension to life-writing. Gupta’s birth-body-memoir creates a resilient umbilical dramatic-poetics. As one reviewer writes, ‘she sings out her truth about what was, what might have been, and what still lives with her, in her heart (The Scotsman, 2013).
By making her son the text’s epi(c)entre, Gupta’s work confirms ‘the powerful, self-fashioning capabilities of the art of poetry as counterstance and counterbalance […] to prevailing social norms that devalue and oppress certain groups of people’ (Osborne, 2010).
Extracts of the play will be performed by acclaimed actor Jaye Griffiths (Casualty, Silent Witness, Old Vic Theatre, Young Vic Theatre, Tricycle) who received an Edinburgh Fringe First nomination for the role in 2013.
This is followed by a panel discussion and Q&A with audience respondents with:
RAHILA GUPTA (author of Don’t Wake Me)
JAYE GRIFFITHS (actor, Fringe First Nominated Edinburgh 2013 for Don’t Wake Me)
GUY SLATER (dramaturg and director of Don’t Wake Me)
RICHARD RIESER (founder of Disability History Month, General Secretary of the Commonwealth Disabled People’s Forum)
Chaired by Deirdre Osborne (Department of Theatre and Performance)
The launch of this new edition of the play by Oberon Books features a Critical Introduction by Deirdre Osborne and further articles by Rahila Gupta. Copies can be purchased at the event.
The drinks reception is kindly sponsored by Oberon Books
WHEN: Thursday 21st November, 2019
WHERE: George Wood Theatre, Richard Hoggart Building, Goldsmiths University of London, SE14 6NW.
FREE but book your place through
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