When I was approached by Nicolas Kent and Indhu Rubasingham to write a play for the Tricycle Theatre as part of the Women, Power and Politics season, I thought it would be a great time to learn something new. Most of my plays have had male leads, so I wanted to go against the grain and write a play with an all-female cast. At first I thought I needed to go to a library and do tons of research.
But, after a few discussions, I came to the realisation that what interested me most about politics and the subject was my own lack of knowledge. I wanted to write a play that explored how young people felt about politics. I am sure there are young people out there who know a lot about politics, but I'm also sure there are many young people who don't think, know or care about it at all. This is the angle I wanted to explore. So where to begin?
When I'm ready to write I do everything possible to distract me, so I switched on the television. The first song that appeared was Dizzee Rascal's and Florence Welch's "You Got The Dirtee Love". I listened to Dizzee spit those first few lyrics: "Everybody wants to be famous/ Nobody wants to be nameless, aimless/ People act shameless/ Tryna live like entertainers..." – I had the idea for my play. Everybody wants to be famous – and it's my generation that is the victim. How does this relate to politics? In every way imaginable. As Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems certainly caught on to during this year's election process, politics is a popularity contest. In shows like The X Factor, and Britain's Got Talent we don't always vote for the person with the most talent, we vote for the most likeable person. That's what my play is about.
Akousa is a meek, quiet girl who is persuaded by her room-mates Charlene and Jenny to run for the job of head of the Student's Union at university. Jenny and Charlene perceive politics as a game, and aim to teach Akousa how to play the game by creating different roles and images for her to play. I didn't want to complain about women's limited role in politics, but was interested in how women can play with the tools of power for their own ends. As much as politicians preach about change and having the desire to be a spokesperson for the nation, politics starts with a personal want. Politics is a game – and most players are in it to win.
'Playing the Game' by Bola Agbaje runs as part of The Women, Power and Politics season at Tricycle Theatre, London NW6 to 17 July (020-7328 1000; tricycle.co.uk)