Five Minutes With... SHAAN SAHOTA

Theatr Clwyd is to play host to Under the Mask, written by Shaan Sahota, a playwright and junior doctor working in London. Whilst a writer on attachment for Tamasha theatre company, Shaan wrote the show, based on her experiences on the front line in a Covid ward during the crisis. It follows a junior doctor, Jaskaran, working at the height of the pandemic.

How did Under the Mask come about?

I am a junior doctor. When the Covid pandemic hit, I was re-deployed to care for critically unwell patients in ICU.

It was a heart-breaking and humbling experience for everyone involved.

Under The Mask was Tamasha artistic director Fin Kennedy's idea - he asked me if I thought it would be possible and therapeutic to write about what was going on.

And how would you describe it?

It's a binaural audio-drama in 3D sound, with elements recorded live on Covid wards.

The immersive nature of the piece means that the listener is thrust with Jaskaran into the throngs of a global pandemic, to watch it unfold one person at a time.

She's worked hard to understand all the interventions that modern medicine can offer, but now she has to learn to just hold her nerve, just hold her patient's hand, when there's nothing-else she can do.

What was it like writing it as opposed to living it?

Even though one obviously informed the other, the pandemic and the writing felt very separate to me.

Writing about a chaotic, painful world is still a meditative and lofty experience.

In the writing, it has a shape and it makes sense and it's distorted into something manageable. But when I was living it, it was so much sensory input - there was no story.

You're a junior doctor by profession. Why did you decide to become a playwright?

I love theatre, it just hadn't occurred to me as a world I could work in.

In my last year of medical school my family was torn over a disputed inheritance and I was thinking about the themes of fairness and inheritance all the time.

This real life drama, the pettiness and the cruelty, gave me the idea for my first play, The Estate.

I've not reached a point yet where I ask myself 'what should I write?' - it's more that something is playing on my mind and the story becomes a way of exploring it.

Under the Mask is playing at Theatr Clwyd from June 30 until July 3. Booking available at or by calling 01352 344101.