Kali People


Helena Bell

Artistic Director

Helena became full time Artistic Director in December 2016.

She was previously Artistic Director of Pursued by a Bear Productions, a new writing theatre company she had led since 2006.  Helena directed several of the early Kali productions including Rukhsana Ahmad’s acclaimed River on Fire at the Lyric Hammersmith (shortlisted for The Susan Smith Blackburn Award).  More recently Kali co-produced Kabaddi Kabaddi Kabaddi with Pursued by a Bear for The Arcola and a national tour.

At Pursued by a Bear Helena led innovative developments in New Writing and Internationalism and together with the writer/film maker Grant Watson created a multi award-winning co-production with American company Tiny Dynamite.

The Lamellar Project by Watson was conceived as a ‘Skype’ play and was produced both in the UK (Arcola Theatre & Tour) ) and in Philadelphia (renamed as Perfect Blue) during 2016\17. Her other commissions for the company were similarly global in setting and scope with plays located in Russia (Kalashnikov: in the Woods by the Lake  by Fraser Grace); Africa (Footprints in the Sand – a refugee themed double bill by Oladipo Agboluaje and Rukhsana Ahmad) and India (Kabaddi Kabaddi Kabaddi by Satinder Chohan).

From 1988 to 1998 Helena was Co-Artistic Director of Brighton’s Alarmist Theatre. Here Helena experimented with new writing and form creating international work in Moscow (The Bedbug by Vladimir Mayakovsky in a new perestroika adaptation by Stephen Plaice); and site specific work in museums – Fossil Woman by Louise Warren (Lyric Hammersmith and National Museum’s Tour); alongside dance/theatre – The Gatekeeper’s Wife – text by Rukhsana Ahmad; choreography by Nahid Siddiqui (Watermans & National Tour). Alarmist also regularly played to great acclaim at The Brighton and Edinburgh Festivals (Pleasance, Bedlam and Richard de Marco theatres).

In 1996 Helena was awarded a prestigious year long Arts Council Director’s Bursary which allowed her to specialise further in new writing at Colchester’s Mercury Theatre and London’s Theatre Centre. She followed this with numerous freelance productions across the U.K.  To date she has directed full productions of over 40 contemporary plays by living playwrights.

Helena has served as an Arts Council assessor on both the National Arts Council Team and for the former London Arts Board. She has regularly worked as a script consultant to playwrights at New Writing South and as a mentor to young artists on the No Strings Attached Scheme at Farnham Maltings.

Helena has also directed numerous graduation shows at accredited Drama schools across London and the South East – most notably at Drama Studio, Mountview Conservatoire and ALRA.

Helena has a mixed race heritage (Indian father/white British mother) and the extensive work she has done with a variety of Asian writers and artists has been a way for her to research, access and encounter aspects of her own heritage.






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Christopher Corner

Executive Director

Chris has worked with Kali since 1999. He became Kali’s General Manager in 2006.

A freelance theatre general and production manager, Chris has managed projects for many of the major new writing companies including Foco Novo, Joint Stock, Bristol Express, Paines Plough, Bright Red, Moving Theatre, The Half Moon, Yellow Earth Theatre, and Lifeblood Theatre Co. Also work with York Early Music Festival, Leicester Haymarket, Sheffield Crucible, Royal Court and the Royal Opera House. Recent projects have included a bilingual Ukrainian/Russian Troilus & Cressida in Kyiv.

Nicole Latchana


Having completed Kali’s Discovery Programme at the start of her writing journey in 2016, Nicole is excited to be back as part of the team.  

As a digital content producer and writer, Nicole has supported projects for dozens of organizations such as Bush Theatre, London Bubble Theatre and Southwark Council.   

Other writing training includes The Channel 4 Screenwriting Course 2022, The Royal Court Writer’s Group, and the MA in Writing for Stage and Broadcast Media at Royal Central.  Her plays have been on at several theatres including The Arcola and Southwark Playhouse.  

Nicole is the lead writer on Landing Bolts commissioned by Fio Theatre, a new play about queer ethnic majority skateboarders which will tour in 2024.   She has just received DYCP funding to explore her ancestral history through a horror lens. 


Jessica Thanki

Company Stage Manager

With a BA in Theatre Production, Jessica has been stage managing professionally for the last 10 years on various types of productions, some of which include: Double Dutch Espresso (Theatre Waah/Tristan Bates), Maybe Father (Talawa/Young Vic), Behna (Kali/Birmingham Rep), It Hasn’t Happened Yet (Liz Carr, Studio Tour), Squid (Theatre Royal Stratford East, School Tour), Brixton Rocks (Tara Arts, tour), Tagore’s Women (Kali/Southwark Playhouse), Sports Play (Just a Must, UK and International tour), Only Our Own (CTCo, Arts Theatre), Dea by Edward Bond (Sutton Theatres); Marco Polo: The Untold Love Story (ATC/ Shaw Theatre), Now Your See Me, Now You Don’t (Immediate Theatre, School Tour), The Ruck (LB Theatre, Tour), Tales of Birbal (Mashi, Tour), Typhoon (Yellow Earth,Soho/Rich Mix), Clockwork Canaries (TRP, The Drum), Cathy (Cardboard Citizens, Tour).

Jessica studied Theatre Production at London Southbank University where Chris Corner taught her lighting in her 2nd year and in her 3rd year she interviewed Janet Steel and the cast of Zameen for her dissertation. Little did she know that she would go on to work with Kali as Assistant Stage Manager and re-lighter on Another Paradise which toured to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and continue to work for the company on over a dozen further productions as Company Stage Manager, Stage Manager and Assistant Director between 2008 and 2018. Jessica loves working for Kali and being a part of the family and looks forward to what the future will bring for the company.

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Kali Board

Alison McFadyen


Until March 2022, Alison was Group Head, Internal Audit for Standard Chartered Bank, having been at the bank since 1999 in various roles. This role was truly global and diverse, as the bank operates in more than 70 countries around the world. Although she has now semi-retired, she remains on the board of Standard Chartered Bank (UK). Alison is a keen musician and lover of the arts – she conducted her own opera group for 17 years, raising more than £70,000 for various charities, and she is on the board of trustees of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. She is also a trustee of GiveOut (an award-winning international LGBTQI community foundation).

Rukhsana Ahmad

Rukhsana is a Playwright who has written several plays for stage and radio. River on Fire (Lyric Hammersmith) was Finalist for the Susan Smith-Blackburn International Prize. Her Radio 4 adaptation of J Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea was a finalist for the Writers’ Guild Award. Other work includes a novel, short fiction, screenplays and translations. With Rita Wolf, she co-founded Kali Theatre Company and ran it for eight years.

Penny Gold

Penny Gold is a Playwright and dramaturge/director/producer.  For BBC TV was a Script Editor and later Producer.  For ten years Commissioning Editor for BBC Radio Drama.  Dramaturgical work includes for RSC, Soho, Hampstead and the Nuffield.  Previously on the boards of the Soho Theatre and of the black company Temba.  She served on the Arts Council New Writing Committee.

Shelley King

Shelley King was born in Calcutta.  She graduated from the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1977.  She has worked extensively as an actress in film, TV, radio and theatre, including the National, Royal Court, Young Vic and Soho theatres and in the West End. She is currently on screen as the outspoken matriarch Yasmeen Nazir in ITV’s Coronation Street.


Shelley sat down with Artistic Director Helena Bell and gave her thoughts on Kali’s work in theatre.


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Shivani Mathur

Shivani Mathur is the founded of a finance company 606 Square. Prior to that, as a senior Managing Director, she was responsible for a global trading business at Deutsche Bank. In parallel with her near 25 year corporate career, she has worked as an artist and exhibited widely including at Bonham’s London, the Royal College of Art, Institute of Contemporary Arts and at the cultural wing of the Government of India in London.

Shiroma Silva

Shiroma Silva is a BBC Film Maker, Journalist and Producer, producing films in genres varying from current affairs and documentaries to innovations in technology that offers new perspectives on the arts, politics and ways we view the world. Her programmes have won BAFTA/RTS awards, been cited in Critic’s Choice and one was nominated for a special viewing at an international film festival in India. She also directs and script reads for theatre, and is exploring ways to interweave different artistic genres.

Jocelyn Watson

Jocelyn Watson grew up in Hong Kong of mixed Indian and English heritage. The Asian Women’s Writer Collective was her first home.  In 2013 she won the Asian Writers Short Story Prize.  She is a qualified solicitor and a volunteer at the Haringey Migrant Support Centre. 

Elizabeth Cuffy

Elizabeth has been on the Kali board for over 11 years. She enjoys the variety of Kali plays that go through dramatugy from scripts to readings, workshops and performances on the stage.

She is the Chair of the board of trustees of St Andrew’s Club, the oldest youth club in the world (founded in 1866).  St.Andrew’s Club is a youth club for children and young people in South Westminster.

Her responsibilities include safeguarding, finance, fund-raising, staffing, directing governance, providing strategic oversight.


Artistic Associates

Poonam Brah

Poonam Brah is a director for stage and screen.

Current projects include; EX, a short film by Arvind Thandi and the premiere of Noor by Azma Dar, a new play about British WW2 female agent Noor Inayat Khan. Poonam received the Michael Grandage Company bursary in 2017 to develop Noor into a full production.

Her third short film, Home Girl by Iman Qureshi was produced on the London Calling Slate 2018. It has been officially selected for 27 festivals so far, including BFI Flare, London.

Poonam has made three new shows with her company 3Fates through a devising process, which utilise a raw and direct aesthetic style, open source multimedia technology and feature female, diverse voices: THE RIVER PROJECT, TO CLOSE YOUR EYES IS TO TRAVEL and RETURN A girl discovers her buried past in an act of civilian journalism. Female experiences of the Iraq war. National Theatre Studio, Soho Theatre, The Yard Theatre, Liverpool Unity Theatre and Al Balad Theatre Amman, Jordan.

Poonam is passionate about developing diverse stories, perspectives and talent, having directed new work for companies including The Yard, Soho Theatre; Birmingham Rep, Kali, Tamasha, Royal Court, Hampstead, Talawa, Liverpool Unity and the National Theatre Studio.

Alongside her extensive new writing and devising experience; Poonam has directed classical texts for some of the country’s leading institutions including the Royal Shakespeare Company and Young Vic.

Poonam trained as a director on the National Theatre Studio Directors Programme and as Staff Director at the Young Vic and RSC for Richard Jones, Trevor Nunn and Sean Holmes. She is an Alumni of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab, NY.


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Pooja Ghai

Pooja Ghai was the Associate Director of Theatre Royal Stratford East from 2015-2018.

Upcoming Productions: Approaching Empty (Tricycle, Live and Tamasha Theatre, opening Jan 2018).

In development: City of Thorns by Ben Rawlence, adapted by Zodwa Nyoni, Birthright by Hannah Khalil and Evan Placey, Ragedom by Hassan Abdulrazzak as Associate/Assistant, The Infidel The Musical (Dir: Kerry Michael and David Baddiel) Memory of Water (Dir: Nikolai Foster)

As Director: Rapunzel (Theatre Royal Stratford East), Lions and Tigers (Sam Wanamaker Playhouse), Counting Stars, The House of In Between, Home Theatre, Angelic Tales (Theatre Royal Stratford East), Tamasha 25, Shakti, Seva, Mother India (Rich Mix), The Accordion Shop (Leicester Curve), The Tune is Always Better on the Outside, Oysters, Mirad a boy from Bosnia, (The Bedford), The Difference (Soho Theatre).

For Drama Schools: Blue Stockings (Corbett Theatre), The Empress Embassy Theatre), As You Like It (Ellen Terry Theatre),13 (Corbett Theatre).

As Dramaturg for Dance: Vestige for Wayne Parsons Dance (Wilton’s Music Hall, Rich Mix and 2018 tour)

Nominations: ACTA award for Best Director for Lions and Tigers by Tanika Gupta. Pooja works as a dramaturge with several playwrights and theatre companies. Pooja is a trustee for Artistic Directors of the Future.

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Aileen Gonsalves

Aileen trained as an actor at the Central School of Speech and Drama and works professionally in all mediums. Directing work includes assistant director to Tim Supple on Midnight’s Children and Greg Doran on All’s Well That Ends Well.

For the RSC, she was an International and National Youth Ensemble Director, a Director on the Scholars Pitch Project and the A Midsummer Night’s Dream Regional Schools Celebration. Founder and Artistic Director of Butterfly (ButterflyTheatre.com) creating site-responsive theatre in caves, castles and ancient woodlands across the country and in Europe. Writing credits include an afternoon play for BBC Radio 4, Church Ladies and Tracy Beaker for CBBC.

When Head of the MA in Acting course 2012-2015 at ArtsEd, she developed her unique Gonsalves method acting technique. She was Associate Director of the RSC’s groundbreaking technological The Tempest at the RST and the Barbican and Director of the RSC’s First Encounters Tempest at the Swan Theatre. She is delighted to work with Kali as an Artistic Associate.

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Kamila Shamsie


Kali is thrilled to welcome the internationally acclaimed novelist Kamila Shamsie as our new patron. We look forward to sharing our future work and continuing to celebrate the achievements of South Asian women writers across the UK and beyond.

“It’s an honour to have my name attached, as Patron, to the groundbreaking Kali Theatre, which has made such a difference to playwrights, actors, directors and theatre-goers over the decades and looks set to continue doing so for many years to come” Kamila Shamsie

Kamila Shamsie is the author of eight novels, which have been translated into over 30 languages. Home Fire (2018) won the Women’s Prize for Fiction, was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, and shortlisted for the Costa Prize; Burnt Shadows (2009) won the Premio Boccaccio (Italy) and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction; A God in Every Stone was shortlisted for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction and the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. Three of her novels have won awards from the Pakistan Academy of Letters. A Vice-President of the Royal Society of Literature and Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Manchester, she was one of Granta’s ‘Best of Young British Novelists’ in 2013. She grew up in Karachi, and now lives in London. Her most recent novel is Best of Friends (2022), which was shortlisted for the Indie Book Awards.

Portrait of Janet Steel

Janet Steel

Artistic Director

Janet was Kali’s Artistic Director from 2002 – 2016. Janet now works as Programme Manager, Commonwealth Writers for the Commonwealth Foundation.

Janet was Kali’s first full-time Artistic Director. For Kali she directed Sock ’em with Honey by Bapsi Sidhwa, Calcutta Kosher by Shelley Silas, Chaos and Paper Thin by Azma Dar, Deadeye by Amber Lone, Zameen by Satinder Kaur Chohan, A Thin Red Line by Sonali Bhattacharyya, Another Paradise by Sayan Kent, Behna by Sonia Likhari, Mustafa by Naylah Ahmed, Shared Memories, The Husbands by Sharmila Chauhan, My Big Fat Cowpat Wedding by Sayan Kent, Twelve, The Dishonoured by Aamina Ahmad, and over 25 readings of work in development.  She established Kali’s reputation for presenting work that explored contemporary social and political issues.

Janet Steel began her career as an actress. Her theatre work includes Cinders, A Colder Climate (Royal Court Theatre), Blood Wedding (Half Moon), Romeo and Juliet (Sherman Theatre & Albany Empire), Oedipus Rex (Tara Arts). Television credits include: An English Christmas, The Bride, Gems, The Refuge, Shalom Salaam. Janet began directing in 1988 as assistant to Tessa Schneideman at Loose Change Theatre, producing UK premiers at BAC by Spanish authors, where she directed her first full-length piece, White Biting Dog. Directing includes: Behzti (The Birmingham Rep); April in Paris, Bretevski Street, A Hard Rain, Top Girls (Northampton Royal Theatre); Exodus (Millennium Mysteries at Coventry Belgrade); Brecht’s Antigone, The Mother, Orpheus Descending, An Ideal Husband, Romeo & Juliet, The Knockey, Serious Money (Rose Bruford College).

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Rukhsana Ahmad

Artistic Director and Founder

Rukhsana was Artistic Director of Kali from 1993 to 2002

Rukhsana became Artistic Director of Kali in 1993 when Rita Wolf moved to New York. She programmed, fundraised, ran writing workshops, and chose the directors to work with Kali’s writers to develop seasons of readings and full productions.

1994  Kali Launched Stagecraft and Writers’ Workshops at Oval House to develop new plays that were presented at Tara Arts.

1995  Joyoti Grech’s Natural World directed by Anne Edyvean

1999  Love Comes in at the Window…  combined Anu Kumar’s The Ecstasy with her adaptation of Manto’s Black Shalwar directed by Helena Bell

2000-2001  Rukhsana’s play, River on Fire, ran at the Lyric Hammersmith and toured the U.K. directed by Helena Bell

2001 National tour of Singh Tangos by Bettina Gracias directed by Caroline Ward

2000: Meri Kahani and 2002, Meri Kahani, Meri Duniya – Readings of plays written by members of Southall Black Sisters’ Support Group for survivors of domestic violence.



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