Tara Theatre Wins Digital Innovation Award at UK Theatre Awards

13 October 2023

“When wars are spoken about often women are left out of the narrative… it’s always men that are the heroes. AMMA celebrates the women.” – Abdul Shayek, Artistic Director Tara Theatre  

Our production of AMMA was an original and ground-breaking virtual reality production that was recognised this week at the UK Theatre Awards winning the award for Digital Innovation.  

AMMA uses cutting-edge 360 VR storytelling to transport its audience through time and space. Viewers embark on a poignant journey as they step into one woman’s memories of the War of Independence in Bangladesh. From there, they follow her as she rebuilds her life in the UK during the 1970s and 1980s. This magical and deeply affecting experience offers a unique opportunity to explore Bangladesh and the UK, with stunning locations serving as the backdrop, all while a daughter confronts the truth of her mother’s life.

Speaking at the awards ceremony, Associate Director Natasha Kathi-Chandra said “This piece was developed from first-hand testimonies from Bangladeshi women in Birmingham, Walsall, Manchester and London and combined theatre and film with 360 immersive technologies. Bringing our protagonist’s cluttered and detailed east London flat to life, down to the ornaments in glass cabinets, the reminiscent back-then fashionable upholstery and sofas to the pill and faan boxes was just the start. AMMA is an unprecedented work of global theatre. We travelled to Bangladesh with a team, scouting and filming in old village homes, mosques and riversides pertinent to the memories of these women whose lives changed forever when they made their heart-breaking and terrifying journeys from Bangladesh to the UK in search of safety.” 

Natasha continues describing our late Artistic Director Abdul Shayek’s progressive and forward thinking approach to creating AMMA saying “Abdul was keen to draw parallels between 360 VR and theatre – both have the power to engage and stimulate the viewer in a mighty and meaningful way, to actually be there and experience the world through the eyes of the protagonist opening up new ways of understanding one another. It was not just an artistic journey Abdul took, but a personal one, coming to terms with his own history of migration and family.” 

Our Executive Director Helen Jeffreys also spoke during our acceptance speech emphasising “All of us are here today on behalf of Abdul Shayek. We are accepting this award for him with immense pride and also with enormous sadness.” 

Helen stressed the value of Abdul’s work at Tara Theatre stating “His work was deeply rooted in listening to and showing stories of people who are not seen or heard enough on our stages. He was an artistic leader who was open and generous with his time and his creativity and believed absolutely in supporting and enabling his fellow artists. Abdul had enough ideas and passion to last 4 lifetimes. We will hold that energy and we will take it forward.” 

All of us at Tara Theatre thank the UK Theatre Awards for taking the time to recognise this project and the work made by Abdul Shayek.