Living in Dirty Paradise

The new production 'Dirty Paradise' is a coming of age story of liberation and survival set in an industrial warehouse in Tottenham against the backdrop of the riots, cuts and Brexit Britain. The team behind it is female-led with local playwright, Andrea Ling, at the helm. Working with a diverse cast, including performers of East Asian, South Asian and Spanish descent, the team are giving the opportunity to share its development with a local audience and actively engage with their responses in a post show discussion. Rachel Ho caught up with Andrea ahead of the rehearsed reading taking place at Bernie Grants Art Centre on 28th July to find out more.

Photo by Yannick Lalardy: Andrea Ling, a Tottenham based playwright

Where did you grow up and what did your parents do?


I have grown up in various places due to my mixed heritage. I’m Chinese Bolivian British. Most of my time has actually been in London and Tottenham. My dad is an electrical engineer and my mum, a proud homemaker, with a PHD in mechanical engineering under her belt!


Describe your relationship to Tottenham.


My relationship with Tottenham is like a love affair: wild, romantic and dramatic. Tottenham is a melting pot of culture and art; it’s one of the most diverse areas in Europe! The choice of delicious food reflects the area from Columbian to Ethiopian, Italian to Caribbean. There is a vibrant creative community, beautiful nature and I admire the tenacity of Tottenham locals. Quite a few times I’ve said to myself over the years ‘only in Tottenham’. It’s a very unique place.


Tell us about your play writing and what inspires you.


Playwriting is a newer string to my bow however I have been writing behind closed doors, for myself, since I was a child. Although I had difficulty at school with English (I found out I was dyslexic at 18) I would write poetry and stories. Writing is a wonderful way to immediately tell a story and is a cathartic release.

The people I meet is my biggest inspiration. Politics, the news and art also inspire me. Things that make me angry, a story or injustice, also gives me fuel to write.


What is Dirty Paradise and how did the project start?


Dirty Paradise is set in Tottenham. It starts under the backdrop of a crappy coalition just after the riots within an industrial warehouse. It centres around four characters from various walks of life and areas who all find themselves living in Tottenham.


Some of the characters, such as Rabbit, are eccentric and funny beings. Hamish is a cynical retired punk. Coco, a Spanish character who is obsessed with Coco Pops and Koe who is trying to find meaning and place in the world.


Photo by Yannick Lalardy: Andrea at Dirty Paradise rehearsals.


It’s a coming of age story, one of survival and liberation within a harsh political and economic landscape. It questions the meaning of community and alternative ways of living especially within the housing crisis in the UK.


The debate is complex and the show welcomes feedback from audiences. I’m not originally from Tottenham. I moved here when I was 21. Am I part of gentrification? Am I a soon to be victim of redevelopment plans in Haringey?


The project started when I had a placement on the Soho Theatre Writers’ Lab. We were asked to write a monologue and I started writing a monologue about a character who sticks two fingers up at systems and helps himself to empty houses in London to take baths and enjoy a cup of tea. This then went on to a full play with 5 characters.


As a woman, how do you think Tottenham has changed? What would you like to see change?


Personally I think we are yet to see the change we want for the world and Tottenham from the viewpoint and treatment of women. ‘Women in Tottenham’ is a great way to initiate change, to celebrate women in Tottenham and create networks to support each other. We need now to address the inequality women face even just walking down the street from cat calling to misogynistic behaviour. This I believe is not just done with preventative behaviour but changing the mindset of those who think it is OK to undermine women. I want to see investment from the government to tackle this issue head on.


Favourite thing to do in Tottenham?


Eat and nature walks! Every morning I take long walks or cycle with my dog Figg along the River Lee and Tottenham marshes.


Anything you would like to add?


Come see ‘Dirty Paradise’ and join the conversation on the 28th July 2018 at Bernie Grant Arts Centre at 6.30pm.


Photo by Emma Swann: Dirty Paradise rehearsals.


'Riots, rise of student fees, rising rent, rise of the right...

A coming of age story of liberation and survival set in an industrial warehouse in Tottenham.

Supported by Soho Writer's Lab and the Young Vic (with guidance from playwright Leo Butler) writer Andrea Ling presents a one night only work in progress performance of Dirty Paradise.'


For more information about Dirty Paradise:



#womenwriters #womeninthearts #dirtyparidise #warehousecommunity #womenintheatre

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