"Bear in mind that I grew up in a country that had no theatre, had no cinema, had no concept of these things... because of the joys of living in an Islamic dictatorship."

As a young female director of colour, Nadia Latif has had to navigate her own route through an institutionally white world of British theatre. Her ongoing and outspoken fight against the sheer ‘level of fuckery’ is equally humbling and inspirational.

Nadia’s role as a trailblazer, however, has at the same time made her a lighting rod for controversy, and unfortunately for a woman of such talent, intelligence and courage the chances are that if you have heard of Nadia you will know her for the play that didn’t happen.

In 2015, Nadia Latif and playwright Omar El-Khairy were commissioned to create a new piece for the National Youth Theatre. Working with 112 students they used as a springboard the vital, nuanced and urgent issue of young people radicalised in Britain to examine the uncomfortable relationship the wider British society has with its Muslim members.

Together they spent 6 months creating an immersive and interactive performance, where audiences would wander around the actors listening to their conversations. The piece was partly formed from their own opinions and experiences as young, ethnic minority Britons as well as drawing on verbatim interchanges with non-muslim residents of Bethnal Green.

It was to be an exciting, intelligent and ambitious - exactly what contemporary theatre should be.

But less than a fortnight before the play’s opening night, it was shut down by its producers, the National Youth Theatre creating a media storm around Nadia and Omar - the repercussions of which reverberate to this day. 

You can buy a copy of Homegrown from Amazon, or at any other decent bookshop.

You can read the National Youth Theatre's statement on the cancellation on The Stage website (behind paywall).

Photo and biography provided by Nadia Latif.

Recorded on 22 August 2017 at
Theatre Deli Broadgate
Interview by Roland Smith
Recording by
 Peter Wiedmann
Produced by Lydia Thomson
Theme music by Luke B. Ford

Nadia Latif

Nadia Latif is Associate Director and Genesis Fellow of the Young Vic. She trained as a director under William Gaskill at RADA and has worked since then exclusively in new writing.

Nadia has worked for buildings and companies including the Almeida, RSC, National Theatre, Bush, Arcola, Theatre503 and Headlong. She is currently developing a slate of short and feature-length films, the first of which (White Girl) shoots this month.

Nadia also occasionally writes articles that focus on race, gender and popular culture. She is also writing a book of essays examining the creative, cultural and social experiences of being a black woman.