Nazan Kesal and Uğur Yücel among the big-name acts at London Turkish Speakers Theatre Festival 2023

Organisers have announced the programme for the fourth edition of the London Turkish Speakers Theatre Festival, which will start on 12 May and run for three weeks.

This year’s plays include a Turkish take on Casablanca about a moral no-man’s land, and solo shows featuring two distinct rebels with a cause, one inspired by Iran and another by Anatolia.

Two of Turkiye’s leading actors, Nazan Kesal and Uğur Yücel, are already confirmed as part of this year’s festival line-up.

Neyzen Tevfik Hiç

Opening this year’s festival on 12 May is Neyzen Tevfik Hiç, a play inspired by a real-life character, Tevfik Kolaylı, A poet, musician, and satirist, Kolaylı was born in the nineteen century and died in 1953 aged 73.

In this memorable journey with Neyzen Tevfik, whose name is derived from his mastery of the ney [flute], we observe his love of rakı as he rages against injustice, bigotry, and oppression. To some, Tevfik is a madman, to others a guardian or sage, albeit a drunken one, who knows no boundaries and happily disregards the rules of society.

Uğur Yücel, 65, stars in this compelling solo performance, which comes to London after a successful tour of theatres in Turkiye in 2022 and 2023. It marks a triumphant return to the stage for Yücel after an absence of many years.

The star has become a familiar face of Turkish cinema, playing diverse leading roles in films such as Muhsin Bey (1987), Eşkıya (1996), and Netflix crime thriller Fatma (2021). Yücel is a screenwriter and director of several acclaimed movies, including Yazı Tura (2003), and Benim Dünyam (2013).

Yaralarım Aşktandır

Nazan Kesal is an award-winning actress whose 30-year career has seen her deliver notable performances on stage and the silver screen, including in Nuri Bilgi Ceylan’s films Uzak and İklimler, winning her plaudits at home and abroad. She’s also appeared in many television series, most recently on Fox TV’s drama Bir Peri Masalı.

For the London Turkish Speakers Theatre Festival (LTSTF), Kesal will reprise a role she is very familiar with about Furuğ Ferruhzad, a powerful female poet and film director from Iran, who died young.

This one-woman play, Yaralarım Aşktandır [My Wounds Are From Love], is a story familiar to those who live under oppression, yet who continue to survive and keep their word despite everything they face. Furuğ’s narrative extols a strong air of rebellion, making it an apt play for all time and all people, but especially now given the events in Iran.

The play will be staged for one night only, on Saturday 13 May, at the Millfield Theatre.

More festival highlights

Ercan Kesal

Other standout events during this three-week celebration of Turkish thespian culture include an audience with actor and writer Ercan Kesal (13 May), and a Turkish performance of Casablanca at the Arcola Theatre by Seyyar Kumpanya, which will close the festival on 4 June.

There are many more plays and drama workshops for children and adults in between. See the festival website for the full programme and book your tickets now!

Festival Details

Title: 4th London Turkish Speakers Theatre Festival

Dates: Friday 12 May 2023 to 4 June 2023

Language: all plays are in Turkish

Venues: various including Millfield Arts Centre in Edmonton, the Chickenshed in Southgate, Tower Theatre in Stoke Newington, and Arcola Theatre in Dalston will be hosting events and performances during the festivals.

Information: for more information about what’s on where, visit the festival website. Please note, this is a Turkish-language site: picture, top, of Nazan Kesal in Yaralarım Aşktandır, and Uğur Yücel in Neyzen Tevfik Hiç.