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Back to the Classroom | A chat with Nick Ahad

We spoke to Nick Ahad, the man behind the stage adaptation of The Boy at the Back of the Class, about what drew him to the book and the characters you can discover in the show.  


  • Drama
  • Family

We sat down with Nick Ahad – the man behind the stage adaptation of the Onjali Q. Raúf novel The Boy at the Back of the Class – about what drew him to the book and the characters you can discover in the show.  

Is this your stage writing debut, or have you written plays before? 

My first play was actually produced in 2011, another play aimed at young audiences, Nor Any Drop, about how Bangladesh will be at the sharp end of climate change and why that matters to all of us. Produced by Red Ladder theatre company, it toured schools in the North of England.  

I then spent a couple of years writing on the ITV soap Emmerdale, but I have always written for theatre. I think Boy at the Back of the Class is my sixth full play, and I’ve written quite a lot of shorter plays, too. 

And what was it about Onjali Q. Raúf’s book that made you want to adapt it? 

Oh, it’s hard to find the words for how much I love Onjali’s book and what she has put into the world by creating it. As someone from a mixed race background – my dad’s Bangladeshi, my mum’s white English – I’ve always questioned my place in the world, wondered where I belong, who I belong to, where is my place.  

Onjali’s book is a reminder that I’m not alone in that and, much more importantly, there are good people in the world who will make a place for people to belong. The children in the book, the ones who tell Ahmet, the refugee who is the boy at the back of the class, that he has somewhere to belong, are absolute heroes. So, I wanted to adapt the book to tell that story and lesson to an audience. 

Tell us a little about the lead character Ahmet, played by Farshid Rokey. 

Ahmet is a contradiction to me: he’s a little boy in a very particular situation who is looking for a home, a place in the world and a family, but he is also a symbol who stands for millions of other children. He could so easily have been Alan Kurdi, that poor little boy whose body washed up on a beach and whose image breaks my heart every time I think of it, but he is also a refugee boy who made it to somewhere safe and is flourishing. He’s also – and I think this is perhaps the most important message – any one of us, if we had been born in his situation.

Can you describe the play in three words?      

Emotional. Funny. Surprising. 

What would you say to anyone thinking of booking to see The Boy At The Back of the Class? 

If you’re thinking of booking to see the show, why haven’t you booked already?  

I want people to see the show because I think it’s important, and there’s a message that I hope will spread as widely as possible. But to be honest, it feels like audiences that have seen the show already might disagree – from the shouts and screams, whoops and cheers that we hear whenever we’re in the theatre, I think they’d tell you to book because it’s a brilliant night out! 

The Boy at the Back of the Class is told from a child’s perspective, highlights the power of friendship and kindness in a world that doesn’t always make sense, and reminds us that everyone needs a place to call home. The show is a part of Creative Matters: Kindness through Creativity, a year-long season that will explore how creativity and the arts can inspire change, tell unheard stories, build compassion and create a fairer and kinder society. Norwich Theatre venues will host a series of shows, workshops, take-part activities and talks. 

The Boy at the Back of the Class is at Norwich Theatre Royal between 23 – 27 Apr. For more information or to book, visit or call the Box Office on 01603 630 000.