Teenager’s Taliban shooting inspiration behind former city teacher’s Islamic play

Playwright Nick Wood
Playwright Nick Wood
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The former head of drama at a Sheffield school has written a new play prompted by the shooting of Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai by the Taliban in Pakistan.

Nick Wood, who taught at Hurlfield School, now Sheffield Springs Academy, for 10 years until 1986, is bringing his play, A Girl With A Book, to the Lantern Theatre in Sheffield later this month.

He also acts in the play himself.

He said that the play is not about Malala, who was shot for championing the cause of girls’ education, but that what happened to her prompted him to look at attitudes to Islam.

Nick said: “I didn’t know anything about her at all until I saw it on the BBC website. I remember first thinking this is appalling, ridiculous, I don’t understand it, it doesn’t make any sense at all.

“I thought there was something I wanted to write about it. I had no idea what it was going to be. I suppose I dismissed it. Like the Troubles in Northern Ireland, I dismissed it and hoped it would go away.”

But Nick found he kept coming back to the idea.

He said he realised the sorts of prejudices expressed by the Daily Mail could also affect a Guardian-reading liberal. “Why did I feel so concerned or irritated by the fact that people want to cover their heads or faces? I don’t feel irritated by the Plymouth Brethren or nuns. It’s something I wanted to express, using the story.”

Nick decided to explore attitudes to Islam and spoke to Muslims and non-Muslims about it.

He said: “That journey led me to meet people and I used their words verbatim. The writer isn’t me any longer.

“I tried to take this bloke through the whole process, not without a certain amount of humour, that he has to see beneath the visible differences between us and arrives at an empathy.”

Nick added: “Rastafarians are incredibly acceptable, even though they wear funny things on their heads, because everybody rates Bob Marley.

“Muslims are trapped between two extremes, the sound Muslim and the pantomime villain Abu Hamza. You can buy Abu Hamza hooks in fancy dress shops.”

Nick, who gave up teaching to work full-time on his writing, added: “I wanted to bring it back to Sheffield. There’s some people I know who are going to be in the audience. I’m still friendly with some people I used to work with and go away with them.”

A Girl With A Book is at the Lantern Theatre in Nether Edge on Wednesday, February 26. Tickets: call 0114 255 1776 or go online to http://thelanternsheff.ticketsource.co.uk/