• Amy Toledano

In conversation with Feeling Lonely At Parties director Yusuf Niazi for Camden Fringe

Updated: Jul 27, 2019

Feeling Lonely At Parties, which is a collaborative piece presented by Pursued By A Dragon Theatre Collective makes its full debut as apart of Camden Fringe this year. I had the pleasure of chatting with the shows director Yusef Niazi about the process so far and what the show is all about.

Hi Yusuf, thanks for chatting with us. Let’s get stuck straight in - what is Feeling Lonely At Parties?

Feeling Lonely at Parties is set in a dystopian future where people are forced to wear headphones to regulate their mood and tells three stories about people who try to find love when their headphones are broken. It is a physical theatre piece with no words and a continuous soundtrack which explores the themes of mental health, loneliness and relationships and how the three intertwine.

Where did the idea come from?

A number of things actually. For the last couple of years I have noticed that I and the people around me have experienced mental health problems which have negatively affected relationships. There is also a lack of understanding, even now, for people with mental health issues which causes people to discriminate against them or mistake the uncontrollable illness for a display of bad human characteristics. When love is added to that, it can be really difficult to form and sustain healthy relationships. This, I feel, is due to this lack of understanding but also from self-doubt and a lack of security that comes with having poor mental health. For me personally, I have also found this to make me feel quite lonely in the past, even in situations where I was amongst friends, or environments that are supposed to be happy. Such as parties. And what makes it worse is that everyone else seems so happy in those situations, which makes you feel even lonelier.

So there was all these feelings, and experiences that the people around me and I were going through, and I just wanted to vent it all out in the form of theatre, which is my way of dealing with my own negative emotions. And as my university had a strong focus on physical theatre, I knew I wanted it to be movement based and sort of explore emotions and feelings through a non-verbal language. I also use music frequently in my work, and knew that there would be a continuous soundtrack, and that the piece in some shape or form should feel like a party. As well as this, I am a story teller and always, tell a story in everything that I make, so I began to construct a story that could look at the themes I wanted to explore, in the form I wanted to explore them in, thus Feeling Lonely at Parties was born.

I know that all of this is really deep but I’m a big believer in creating work that takes the audience on an emotional journey. So the show is as joyful and funny as it is dramatic and sometimes heart-breaking.

Can you tell us why you wanted to direct the piece, and any other involvement you have had?

The themes of the show are of course really personal to me and they are topics which I am very passionate about discussing and spreading awareness for. I also really loved the concept and the story that I created and had a visual sense of what it would look like. More than anything though, I love directing and I am very eager to direct as much as possible, especially at theatres such as The Camden People’s Theatre.

As well as directing I also created the story and am a dramaturg on the piece. I am also producing, stage managing, co-designing and marketing. So it’s quite a lot of work, but this is very much my passion project, so for the most part, doesn’t feel like work.

How did Pursued By A Dragon come about?

We are made up of students from Middlesex University, current and graduated, who I have loved working with over the last three years and done many projects with. It’s very rare to find people that you click so well with both in terms of the way you work and the type of work you want to make. As a collective we are very dedicated to telling stories that are often fantastical but are about important subjects. We are also devoted to increasing the accessibility of the arts in terms of, creating shows that people can enjoy on multiple levels. Shows that anyone can experience. Creating work with people from different backgrounds in terms of class, race, nationality, sexuality, gender.

Is the Camden Fringe run your first run of the show?

It’s the first run of the full show. We performed a 20 minute version of it at Middlesex University which we then took to PULSE Festival, but have since developed it into an hour piece with multiple stories that intertwine. Nobody has seen this version and we are very excited to share it with you.

Why do you think it is important for people to see it?

Many reasons. The most significant one perhaps being that the things that the characters in this show are dealing with are issues that a lot of us face but never really acknowledge or perhaps don’t know a lot about. I feel this show can help people understand others but also provide some catharsis for them, and hopefully make them feel less alone.

On another level I think it’s important that people see it because we are a new collective of artists from different parts of the world, from under represented backgrounds, who are making this show without any funding. We are doing it for the love and I feel that that needs to be supported. Up and coming artists need support and work like this needs to be talked about in order for us to grow and begin to change the theatre game for the better.

Can we expect a life for the show after this year’s Camden Fringe?

Absolutely. This is a project that is so adored by us and we are not going to stop until it can be experienced by hundreds of different people. We are hoping that The Camden Fringe can be a step towards achieving this. Even if it just gives us clarity on how to make the show better and even more accessible. Which is something I am already starting to think about.

What is next for you?

In September I personally start an MA in Theatre Directing at Mountview Academy as well as continuing with directing training with CASPA Arts, but outside of this, I am very much looking to get stuck into exciting projects and direct as much as I can. In terms of Pursued by a Dragon I want to continue making the collective stronger and leading into enriching creative endeavours.

Feeling Lonely At Parties is playing at Camden People's Theatre as apart of Camden Fringe until 1st August 2019. Tickets available here.

Amy x

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