Mama Quilla Productions—Arts for Change

Theatre, film, digital art installations, workshops and print

Artistic Director/Executive Producer: Kay Adshead

Powerful passionate committed piece of theatre that if seen widely enough may change hearts and minds. – The Guardian


This is political theatre at its best. – Scotland on Sunday


Political theatre is alive again.  – Evening Standard

Theatre of ProtestAt The Roundhouse, January 2012, eight new commissions, involving over 80 performers, including:

If Anyone Recognises these Young People?

The Women's Spring

The London Summer

The Singing Stones





“Since 2010, Kay Adshead under the aegis of Mama Quilla has been creating performance pieces out of real protests and all the dramatic works seen at the Roundhouse were ‘workshop or seed productions.’  So here form gets to mirror content and the process is all the more invigorating for it.

First up, thirty people dramatised events around the student protests in Westminster on 9 December 2010 against tuition fees in If Anyone Recognises These Young People. The visual material has an immediate impact because of its shared memory, while the soundless articulation of the politicians appears hollow; summed up in one line ‘it’s a people thing.’

Internationality was an overt theme of the day: from content to representation.  The Women’s Spring, ‘beyond verbatim’ theatre, was inspired by first-hand testimonies of women caught up in the Arab Revolution.  A woman clerical officer shifts, orders and stacks papers; she makes no attempt to intervene. At other times, a woman laughs: a bitter counterpoint to the impotency of all Arab women where to protest is an illegal act. There is savagery, degradation in this and the subsequent dramatic narratives.

Under the title The London Summer were two pieces: one rap and rhyme, which brought the audience to its feet; and the other, a ‘play in a day’ concept from students of the City Lit in response to the English summer riots featuring The Guardian, the LSE, a series of interviews, and a neat tag-line - ‘I’m just watching’.

The experience ended with The Singing Stones, a revolutionary fairytale, written by Adshead, performed by the compelling Sarah Nile and directed by Kully Thiarai. In the piece, a woman is condemned for singing in a public square at night on the spot where her husband had died. The dramatic switch comes when the narrative changes from the third to the first person; thrilling.

For the auburn-headed Adshead, who chivvied and encouraged till the end, you wonder how she keeps the fire in her belly. The answer: by believing ‘the only struggle you lose is the one you give up.’ It’s twenty five years since she wrote Thatcher’s Women. Now she gives a voice and a platform to a new generation, empowering them to be loud, proud and strong.”

– Pauline Flannery, StageWon

Video diary of Theatre of Protest by Sian Evans

A short film by emerging filmmakers Sarah Akigbogun and Simon McCabe, assisted by members of the Mama Quilla Initiative, commissioned for Theatre of Protest at the Roundhouse

A short film by emerging filmmakers Lise Marker and Heide Hasbrouck in response to Theatre of Protest at the Roundhouse

The Bogus Woman

A young woman arrives in a strange country. A woman who has committed no crime.

She is indefinitely confined, humiliated and racially and sexually abused. She witnesses her guards' petty dishonesty and casual brutality. She sees innocents scapegoated and worst of all she hears the authorities lie and lie again.

The country is England. It is 1997.

“Kay Adsheads angry stripped-down script bleeds humanity... Words in Adshead's hands are bullets” – The IndependentBites

Seven courses, one meal

Moving from the biggest democracy on the planet to the newest, Bites takes us back to Afghanistan via Texas. In the last diner at the end of a world ravaged by war, a menu of love, death and revenge is served by the 'hired help'. Seven courses make for a poetic feast of universal tales looking back to the forgotten war and forward to a nightmarish future.

“Imaginative, fluent, funny and hideous  ... a world in which the relationships between the characters are vicious and cannibalistic, and people are all so much meat ... ”– The Evening Standard BonesAt night, a young black boy is questioned by a white South African policeman. A terrible incident and the truth is buried. Thirty six years later, when the truth is dug up, a tortured Jennifer watches over her dying husband. But does her maid Beauty have the power to save him, and is the price of remembering a dreadful secret one that Jennifer is prepared to pay?

Bones is a ruthless excavation of modern South Africa, and in an age of retribution and revenge, it is an anthem for hope.

“Disturbing power, a compelling vividness and a wicked wit… effective and compelling – The TimesThree Police Statements taken from Working Girls“Brilliantly acted by Mama Quilla, this deadly serious issue was served up with humour, compassion, and integrity as well as political insight. It elicited a robust debate about a sex worker being arrested and questioned because she was working with friends for safety. It was played at the Crossroads Women's Centre to a packed crowd, which included some of the featured sex workers. They were the first to applaud the realistic way the were portrayed.” – Cari Mitchell, The English Collective of Prostitutes

On 17 October 2009, Mama Quilla, funded by the Arts Council and Camden Council, presented A Day of Debate and Performance. Should Prostitution Be Decriminalised? Three Police Statements taken from Working Girls was a short performance piece informed and inspired by unique access to actual police statements, and specially written by Kay Adshead for the Day of Debate and Performance.

To DismemberIn 2010, Mama Quilla established a partnership with The City Lit, Keeley Street, Drama Department. Out of the City Lit partnership, the Mama Quilla Initiative evolved.

To Dismember was performed as Work in Progress at the John Lyon Theatre.

“Given the horrific discovery of the remains of a working girl in Bradford, this play could not have been more timely. It exposes the hypocrisy and brutal indifference of the authorities towards prostitute women's lives.” – Sian Evans, Women in DialogueMatterMatter, a work in progress examining the real legacy of post-Olympic Britain for two young Eastenders, was performed at the Broadway Theatre, Barking.

Other Past ProjectsThe Working Class Project

© Mama Quilla Productions 2009. All rights reserved.