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Playwright Tariq Jordan: ‘I wanted to look at the relationship between Muslims and Jews’

Tariq Jordan Tariq Jordan

With his debut play Ali and Dahlia exploring a love story between an Israeli and a Palestinian, Tariq Jordan tells Giverny Masso about exploring his heritage through his writing…

What is your debut play about?
Ali and Dahlia is a love story that follows a relationship between a Palestinian and an Israeli who meet during the construction of the West Bank wall. The play, a three-hander, follows their lives together over a 15-year period. I’ve been working as a secondary school teacher for the past four years, so with this play I wanted to focus on the lives of young people growing up in that situation.

Where did the inspiration for the play come from?
It got to the point where I felt a lot of the stories I was seeing and going up for [as an actor] were very similar. I thought I’d like to tell a different story from my own unique perspective. My mother is Russian-Jewish and my father is Iraqi-Muslim. I’ve always wanted to look at the relationship between Muslims and Jews. The idea came when working in Palestine in 2014 for a company called Ashtar Theatre. It was the first time I got to see what it really means to live in the West Bank.

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What happened to you in Tel Aviv?
When I arrived, I was held for 12 hours and questioned. It was as if the person questioning me could not accept that I had Jewish roots, and tried to get me to renounce them. This was something I wanted to explore in my writing when I came back. There were some funny moments [during the interrogation]. He took my phone off me and went though the contacts and found one called Lebanese Ali. He said: “You’ve been lying to me,” as I’d previously denied knowing anyone in Lebanon. He said: “You’re not getting out until you tell me who this is.” Then it dawned on me that it was the kebab house I used to go to when I was at uni.

How did you get into theatre?
I was fascinated with stories from a very young age. I was homeless as a young child for two years. I lived in a hostel, where I heard the stories of people from all over the world. I used to go to local drama classes and after-school clubs. I was very shy as a child: it was more me in my room thinking of stories. I later trained at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

What will you do next?
I will absolutely keep writing. I’d like to look at the period of my life when I was homeless. I’ve always felt that as an actor you can be put in a box and when I started writing my own stories, that was the first time I could break out of my box and be who I wanted to be. This industry likes to be able to define you, but I think that who you are changes throughout your experiences in life.

CV Tariq Jordan

Training: BA acting, Central School of Speech and Drama (2004-07)
First professional role: Fragile Land, Hampstead Theatre (2011)
Agent: Lucia Pallaris at United Agents

Ali and Dahlia runs at London’s Pleasance Theatre from March 26 to April 14

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