Sabrina Mahfouz’s hugely successful With A Little Bit of Luck directed by Stef O’Driscoll will be returning to London’s iconic Roundhouse for one night only as part of The Last Word Festival.
With A Little Bit of Luck is a eulogy to UK Garage but also a love-letter to the lost hope of 2001, which with the recent mainstream popularity of Grime, feels timelier than ever. Sabrina Mahfouz wrote the show from her personal experiences of growing up within the movement so the piece is a social history of a movement which is being urgently reappraised.
The show follows Nadia (Seroca Davis) through raves, revisions and re-elections and is rhythmically underscored by Martyna Baker whose gorgeous voices creates a live mix of old school UK Garage. Artists featured in the show include DJ Luck and MC Neat whose song gives the show its name.
#TBB10 spoke to Sabrina to find out more…
1# Why Garage?
For me, Garage is all the joy, hope and golden times of life wrapped up in my favourite music of all time – so it couldn’t be anything else!
2# What or when did you get the ‘omg this is a play’ moment that inspired you to write this ode to Garage?
Madani Younis, the Artistic Director of the Bush Theatre asked me years ago, if you had to write a musical, what would it be about and my immediate reaction was – Ayia Napa and Garage. We developed that idea together for a while and it eventually morphed into the Garage play, shaped by the director for Paines Plough, Stef O’Driscoll.
3# How old were you during the Garage era and where were you in your creative journey?
I was raving to Garage and Jungle every week from 15-26. Musically the peak for Garage was probably when I was 15-16 but in terms of fun and memorable experiences, the main stage for me was 3 month trips to Ayia Napa every summer from when I was 18, 2001-2004. The genre had already reached huge mainstream success by then, giving the summers spent there an extra sparkle; like there was finally an Ibiza for those of us who didn’t like house music! Ayia Napa was where emerging artists (who would eventually become the superstars of Grime) were trying to grab the mic and there’d be new sounds to dance to every night. I was hardly awake during the day.
Creatively, I was doing photography then, supplying the pictures for all the rave flyers, at a time before digital; before Facebook, as mad as that sounds. I used to write lyrics but wasn’t brave enough to perform them and I wasn’t good with music. I didn’t know it then but I was waiting for poetry of course! It wouldn’t be until I was 25, in 2009 that I would do poetry at an open mic night in east London for the first time.
4# When Garage transitioned into Funky House and Grime did you transition with it or were you a dejected purist?
Ha! Funky house had been around a lot in the other rooms at the more grown up raves, so I was down with that for a while. Grime at the beginning was a strange jolt of confusion for me. Musically, I adored it. But my group of girls started to be one of the only groups of girls at a Grime rave. It felt like much more of a ‘boys scene’ than Garage or Jungle had, even though in terms of representation the artists from all scenes were predominantly men in the first place. But Jungle and Garage had always represented an empowerment somehow that for me, Grime didn’t quite match, although I can see how it did for others. The dancing was angry, the mood was angry. The world had changed and I was ready to spend time getting serious with my ambitions which existed outside of music, rather than raving all the time, so I didn’t hang about in that scene for long.
5# With A Little Bit of Luck makes its return to The Roundhouse this June, tell us about how and why it’s coming back?
Yep it is a dream to be taking over the Roundhouse main space with a play about Garage and sets from some of my most favourite garage artists – DJ Luck, MC Neat, Mighty Moe and DJ Steady. It is being brought back because the London run last year in the Roundhouse studio was received so joyfully by the audiences who came, we thought we had to rewind but on a bigger scale, and really make a night of it.
6# Will there be anything different from the first for this return production?
Just the scale – the space is huge, and of course, the after party with two big Garage sets from the legends mentioned above.
7# What made you choose the Roundhouse?
The Roundhouse has an annual festival called Last Word, which showcases such exciting work from a range of poets, spoken word artists and writer-performers, it is the perfect place for the show as it combines poetry with spoken word, storytelling and music. Also, the venue is iconic, just like the music.
8# What did you get from writing this piece?
Writing this piece made me feel that anything is possible (a line which ended up in the play a few times!). If I could make theatre about one of the best times in my life, but also one of the times that often felt the most removed from the arts world when I first started working within it, I realised that the appetite is out there for things to be created that resonate with a greater number of people than are sometimes considered. I also got to appreciate the absolute genius of an incredible team who shared the love of the music and their story, especially seeing how Stef, the director, pulled it altogether to be more seamless than I honestly thought possible considering the numerous elements involved. She is exceptional.
9# You’ve got a lot of other projects going could you tell us a bit about what you’ve got coming up next…
I’ve edited an anthology of work called The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write which came out in April and I’m really proud of the work showcased in that. I’ll be doing many literary festivals with some of the other contributors throughout the year.
There’s two dance shows I wrote poems for touring the UK, Rosalind by James Cousins Co and I Imagine by Aakash Odedra. I’m working on an opera adaptation of Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman at Point Zero and a work in progress will be shown in July at the Royal Opera House.
A play about women in football, Offside, which I co-wrote with my friend and poet Hollie McNish, will be showing throughout Edinburgh Festival and then plenty of poetry things happening until the end of the year, mainly based on my poetry book about sex work, How You Might Know Me.
10# Name the Garage tune your friends would say most reminds them of you; the Garage tune which most represents the whole Garage era for you; and if you were stuck on a Desert Island with only one Garage tune playing on repeat which one would it be?
This is one of them ones when I get it completely wrong but I’d say my mates would be reminded of me by the tune Doolally. With a Little Bit of Luck musically and politically represents that era for me. The one garage tune on repeat? That is hard. Maybe Boo as I would finally get all the lyrics right!
With a Little Bit of Luck runs for one night at the Roundhouse 9th June 2017. Find out more and book tickets here.