Interview: Iman Qureshi on The Ministry of Lesbian Affairs
We caught up with writer Iman Qureshi to talk about her new show The Ministry of Lesbian Affairs coming to Soho Theatre.
Tell us about The Ministry of Lesbian Affairs. What should audiences expect from this brand new production?
The Ministry of Lesbian Affairs is about a lesbian choir that sets out to sing at Pride, but when you have one team with different dreams, things aren’t always smooth sailing. Some members just want to get laid. Others want their closeted partners to come out. And some sad suckers are just there to sing. When Pride rolls around, things don’t quite go according to plan, and the choir has to face up to some hard truths about themselves. Audiences should expect to laugh, to want to sing along to some cracking tunes, and to be deeply moved.
Who or what inspires you to write for theatre?
Theatres are my spiritual home. Nowhere else have I had such elevated emotional experiences. There is a particular electricity that zings between actors and audiences in a theatre which exists for just a fleeting moment, and then it’s gone. The magic of it, the transience of it, is like the most delicious first kiss. The memory lingers long after, but you can never really revisit that moment. It’s moments like that in a theatre, which inspire me to keep writing. Especially because that’s what moves people deep in their being. And if social media and fake news has taught us anything, people are far more inclined to trust their feelings than they are to trust facts! So if we can change how people feel, we can change the world.
What would your advice be to up and coming artists and playwrights who are working to tell stories that are not often voiced and staged?
Don’t be afraid to be big, bold and ambitious. There are many obstacles inevitably, but try not to let them get you down. It’s hard, I know, but try to use them to motivate you. And don’t let yourself off the hook either – just because your story hasn’t been told, doesn’t mean you can offer a weak script up and say, ‘Well you have to put this on because there’s nothing like it out there’.
Make it the best piece of work that you possibly can before putting it out there. Sometimes that is scarier, because the fear is that even your best might not be enough. This is when you need to trust your instincts – you are a fierce and intelligent critic as well as an artist. If you find your work thrilling, engaging and powerful, there will be others out there who will too. You just haven’t found them yet. Be patient. It takes time and the road is long and winding.
What are your favourite London haunts? (To eat, to watch shows, to get inspired)
Soho Theatre, obviously – for comedy, drag and theatre! Win, win, win. To eat, I absolutely adore Bonnington Café in Vauxhall. It’s a vegetarian joint that has rotating chefs who you have to text on the day for a table. It’s tiny and candlelit and I love it because it feels like my little local secret. Which I’m sharing with you. You’re welcome.
I also love walking or running along the river down to the Southbank – I still can’t believe this is my city. I feel so grateful. And I’ve recently discovered that the South Bank is home to London’s LGBTQ+ Community Centre, on Hopton Street just behind the Tate Modern. It’s such a gorgeous, welcoming, inclusive space and they have all kinds of events there and though it’s a pop-up for now, I really hope it stays.