Abdul Shayek: Death and the Maiden, Fio

October 27, 2017 by

My name is Abdul Shayek and I am a theatre director and Artistic Director of Fio. I moved from London to Wales in 2011 and worked for National Theatre Wales as a Creative Associate. In 2013, I left and started my own projects – I created Fio from the foundations of an organisation I ran in London called Youth Of Creative Arts. Fio is based in Cardiff but works across the UK and is an arts charity with the aim of creating new and interesting productions, projects and developing people. Fio in Latin means to belong / become.

At Fio, we want to make productions that instigate conversations over important issues, this is evident in our previous productions as well as the upcoming Death and the Maiden which is currently in rehearsal.  Fio strives to “….make fearless theatre: work that tears down stereotypes and challenges injustice. ”

Olivier award-winning play Death And The Maiden tells the thrilling story of Paulina Salas, a torture victim of a brutal military dictatorship. Paulina is full of fear, gripped by a secret terror that she only shares with her husband, Gerardo. One night, a kindly stranger, Dr Miranda, arrives at their door late at night unannounced, forcing Paulina to confront her deepest fears face-to-face. Ariel Dorfman’s spectacular thriller confronts an audience’s understanding of the nature of truth and honesty, begging an answer to the question of whether democracy can ever truly heal the wounds of dictatorship.




When a country comes out of military dictatorship and democracy is installed, what are the repercussions for those who have been victims? How does the population and more importantly individuals within this new democracy learn to forgive and forget?  For me, this piece goes beyond exploring this from a global perspective, and asks some big questions about forgiveness on a personal scale. The play tackles themes of rape and torture and its effect on victims. We want to ask: how does a whole nation recover to democracy after a dictatorship? How do victims move on from governmental/ state abuse?

Recent events such as the Weinstein case raise issues such as abuse of power and the male-dominated world women have to live in. What happens when women are subjected to sexual abuse and how is it viewed through the lens of the mainstream? How can we empower women to feel like they can talk about it? We want to know how to identify and in turn engage with issues of this nature.

When I moved to Wales I could see a diverse community around me. But many culturally-diverse artists didn’t have the prominence they deserved on the Welsh arts scene and weren’t given the same platforms as others. I created Fio to try to develop these people and provide them the chance to access these platforms and opportunities, whilst encouraging a new group of emerging artists and practitioners to feel that they too could be storytellers of the here and now and the future.  Fio’s production last year, c, aimed to tackle race issues and how much they may or may not have changed. Despite being focused on the Black American community, it resonates across the world where there is an Afro-Caribbean diaspora which is being underrepresented.  Therefore this timely piece will be doing a similar thing in terms of engaging and talking about another subject matter we often find uncomfortable to engage or talk about.

As a production team, we are very concerned with supporting actors and audiences who may be affected by the themes the play raises or engages with. We want to talk about it but also provide a safe space for thinking around abuse and dealing with the political ramifications of a nation entering a democracy after a dictatorship. Gender politics has a huge part to play in the show too. We want the production to force us to have those conversations. It’s been an interesting process as a creative team, thinking about how to do it right and how to safeguard those participating in those conversations in the first place. We want to do it in a way that is safe and constructive. We’re going to have some Q&As with people who have experience of civil war, rape and other themes of the play to enable the informed but safe conversations. Also, on the 1st to the 3rd November we are running a female-only project. Fusion is meant to encourage a safe space for women to get together and respond to the personal themes we want to raise in discussions. It will be at St David’s Hall and will really delve into what being a female in Wales is like and how cultural differences affect this.  Anyone interested in the project please contact us at hello@wearefio.co.uk – days will be running from 11am to 5pm.



Death and the Maiden runs at The Other Room 31 October to 11 November at 7.30pm. Tickets are available now from www.otherroomtheatre.com


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