Introducing: Tasnim Hossain – Writer (Distant Sounds)

Tasnim Hossain is a playwright and performance poet. Her work has been staged by the Australian Theatre for Young People (ATYP) and Apocalypse Theatre Company, and published by Currency Press. Her first solo show was developed through Playwriting Australia’s Lotus Program for Asian-Australian Writers and premiered at Perth’s Fringe World, with a second season at You Are Here festival in Canberra in 2015. She was an Associate Artist at Canberra Youth Theatre in 2013. She is currently participating in The Hive, The Street Theatre’s script development program in Canberra, as well as ATYP’s Fresh Ink National Mentoring Program in Sydney. She has a Bachelor of Arts (International Relations) from the Australian National University.

 What initially made you interested in writing a piece of theatre inspired by a piece of music?

I’m always really excited by the prospect of creating a piece of art in response to particular stimuli. I love the process of exploring something else and seeing how far you can take your own ideas. The thing that I love about the theatre is that it is never just one artist working in isolation; every piece of art for theatre is informed by so many other artists. To overtly do this, through Distant Sounds, was such a pleasure.

What were your first thoughts about the piece of music you are working with?

My first thoughts were probably along the lines of “Oh crap.” Followed closely, upon a repeat hearing, by “oh my god, how do I respond to this?” It took me several listens, as well as discussion with some of my theatre maker friends before I felt like I could really crack the piece open and get to all of the juicy flesh inside.

I think Richard’s piece is not at all didactic and I think that for me, listening to so much music which tells you how you should feel or think, it was hard to know how to respond initially to such a layered, almost-documentary, but also very meticulously crafted piece. That said, once I got over the very reactive kind of panic, I really loved getting to respond to all of the sounds and silences I heard in Richard’s piece of music.

What problems did you run into when writing your script?

One of the problems for me was knowing how to respond to this particular kind of almost-soundscape in a way that worked harmoniously. Once I had given up my tendency towards naturalism in theatre and embraced my love of rhythm and repetition, imagery and motifs from music and spoken word poetry, I found it a lot easier to write.

Did you have any ideas before you listened to the music that you are still using?

I have always been fascinated by politics, and identity politics in particular. The preoccupation with who belongs and who doesn’t, I think, is a trait common to countries with large diasporic communities, like Australia and the UK. I didn’t come to the piece of music consciously thinking of writing a political piece, however the slightly unsettling feeling and the sense of emptiness and isolation in Richard’s piece lent itself to something that has always been a part of my consciousness.

Have you ever been to UK?- If so what did you think?

I have been to the UK once. I visited Manchester and London with my family as a teenager, a couple of days in each city. We visited in November and my overwhelming feeling was one of overcast claustrophobia. Canberra, as cold as it sometimes gets (in Australian terms, anyway) is quite a clear, sunny place with a population of a few hundred thousand, and so the tightly packed streets and terraced houses of Manchester and London were really overwhelming for a 16 year old. It’s definitely been a while since then so I need to visit again some time soon. This time I’ll make sure it’s in July or August!