Dharmesh Patel (British South Asian Theatre Memories Interview)

My name is Dharmash Patel and I’m an actor.
And you were born in the UK? I was born in the UK. I was raised in London.
Er, well I was born in Kettering, raised in London, er, went to, moved to Harrow when
I was about twelve, and then went to uni in Liverpool. And then travelled round ever since,
really, like a hobo. (laughs) And you feel London is your home?
London, London is, yeah, without a shadow of a doubt, em… It’s funny, because whenever
you go across the world, people always say where are you from, and I always find myself
saying I’m from London. I never say I’m from England, and it’s strange because when you
come back to London, you feel like you’re home. It it it’s a strange concept I know.
I know it sounds bizzare. We’ve all got our home towns and I think that’s what the world
is becoming now. It’s not becoming about what country are you from. I think it’s about what
what place you’re from and what that does to you. Em, because I don’t know what it is
to be English. I know what it is to be someone from London. Em, I know the people of London.
Er, people in Britain. They are so, they are so versatile, they are so diverse, you know,
that there isn’t just one type of person and I think that’s what London is for me it’s
a caco, like a cacophony of colours and cultures and music and art and theatre and football.
Football is very important to me. (laughs) Em, so yeah, London is home. Yeah.
And how do you define home? Do you know, I know when I’m home when my
shoulders drop. When I’m in London, I feel my shoulders drop. The moment I get on the
train, the Underground, and I know it sounds strange, but, you relax into a pace, and it’s
very fast, it’s very energetic, but there’s also a serenity to it. There’s also a feel.
It’s hard to explain the feeling. It’s hard to explain something that you can’t, that
you can’t explain. It’s just something you know, you know. Yeah.
So let’s talk about the journey you’ve taken in your life then because you obviously have
to start from a place and a home is a very good place to start from.
Yeah. (laughs) Always a great place. So how do you see your artistic journey?
Em…till now? I I think my artistic journey began as a kid. Em, it was a lot of, I grew
up in a, my parents are immigrants. They came with £26 and nothing else. And you quickly
realize you don’t have toys to play with. You don’t have anything but your imagination.
And I had three older sisters. I never had brothers, but we had loads of animals in the
house. So I’d go on these little adventures with the dog that I used to have. And I know
that sounds bizarre but when you don’t have anything, any materialistic stuff what you
quickly find is that your imagination becomes your, your playground. And that, for me was.
When I kind of thought, looking back, I kind of go yeah, that’s where, that’s where it
began. As a kid, growing up with not very much. Having to make my own fun and…and
not having many friends because you are the only hindu person in Whitechapel because it
was a predominantly Bangladeshi community and there was my one black friend, Clifton,
and we used to get into a lot of fights as kids ’cause we were, we were the outcasts
in that community. Em, and so we we would have our own adventures and stuff. And my
parents had a shop, you know. So we were well known in the community. Em…I’ve gone off
track. What was the question? That’s absolutely great because that’s the
journey isn’t it? Yes. So that’s where it began I think. That’s
where my journey began. Em, playing with Clifton. Em, going to the park with the dog and going
on adventures. Em, and my sister, well, she was always into dance. She was into kathak
dance and she’s still is, she still does it. And she would dress me up, and, you know,
she would make me do dance and would watch, em, like Bollywood films, classic Bollywood
films, black and white films, and there was a lot of singing and dancing in that. So I
was always surrounded by it. Always, always. Em, but I don’t think I was ever conscious
of it. It, for me, it was just part of my upbringing. And when I went to school, I…I
had a brilliant drama teacher who invited me into this world of theatre, who, I think
she gave me the bug for it. Em, but I knew I could never do it ’cause it was never an
option, you know. It was never something I’d take seriously. I still don’t take it very
seriously, because, it’s a bizarre concept to be paid to do what you love in this world,
isn’t it. It is. Er, think of this seven billion people on this planet and how many of those
people actually get to do what they love. And you quickly realize that you’re actually
in a very privileged position. But not when you are younger. I think it comes with age,
and that sounds condescending, but it’s, because people said it to me when I was growing up,
but it’s true. With age I think you begin to realize what’s important and what you want
to do with your career. And then you meet other people along the way. Em, I went to
a place called, er em, Hope Street, in Liverpool, which was a physical theatre school and that,
that one…that one thing molded me into who I am today. Because I met the likes of Paul
Hunter and Madani Younis and Improbable and Complicite and people like that who made theatre
more than what we know it. What I knew of it at the time. Very bland, very sort of simplistic.
Nothing very exciting. And when you meet those people, you quickly realize of what you want
to achieve with your career and the people you want to admire and the people you want
to, to look up to. And when you realise that, I think you begin to think about the work
that you want to do. And the influences that they have had over your work. And so you quickly
forget about the colour of your skin. For me, it was very much about that. It’s was
forgetting about who I am or where I’m from, although that will always stay with me. I
think, the older I get, the more decisions I get to make for myself, and I choose not
to be a colour. I choose not be a face for a type of theatre. I choose not to be type
cast, I hope. Because if you look at the likes of Paul Hunter and he will always have a magnificent
affect on my career, you quickly realize, nothing can stop you, as long as your imagination
is still working. As long as you’re still presenting work which excites you, and which
you want to explore and you want to share. Em, and he does everything. He writes, he
directs, em, he’s a performer. Phenomenal performer. Phenomenal director, and, a brilliant
improviser. Him and Hayley Carmichael who have Told By An Idiot. And you quickly realize
those are the people I want to be like when I grow up. (laughs) When I grow up, I want
to be like them. That’s my journey yah. And it’s great that you have this, you don’
have a problem being South Asian as such, because I think the older generation did encounter
that. They found that they did not have the opportunities that perhaps you do now, coming
from London and how it’s developed as a community. Yeah, of course.
Which is I suppose the reason why you say it’s home.
Yeah, of course. But I think there are so many influences in your life aren’t there.
Your parents. What I what I realize. I didn’t realize at the time. Of course my parents
had a problem with me wanting to be an actor. Of course they did. Because who in their right
mind turns around to their parents and goes, I’m I’m going to be an actor. I’ll be brilliant.
I’ll make some money and will, I’ll look after you, It’ll be it’ll be great. My dad’s first
reaction was, are you stupid. And my reaction was yes, I I think I am. It’s alright. But
it takes time, doesn’t, with parents. Like everything else. It’s relationship you you’re
constantly building on. It’s like a relationship with a partner. If you don’t grow together,
you’re not, you are going to grow apart. And that’s exactly what it is with my parents.
We’ve, my career’s grown with them and they’ve learnt to accept the fact that I can make
a living from being an actor. Not, full time. ‘Cause, let’s face it, unless you are a superstar,
you are not going to make a a living from it. But I I do OK, and I’m inspired by the
by the people I work with. And there’s nothing better than wake up in the morning and go,
I get to go to work today and do what I love. And. I think, the older I got, I quickly realized
that, my parents didn’t have a problem with me being an actor. What they had a problem
with was making sure they did the absolute best for me growing up, and gave me the best
opportunities. We moved from Whitechapel to Harrow when I was twelve, because, they knew
that if they stayed in Whitechapel I was going to get in trouble. And I was starting to get
in trouble, em, and we moved to Harrow. And they took me to a better school. And I was
influenced by those people. Em, I’m not saying everyone that grows up in Whitechapel turns
out to be a bad egg. It’s not true. It’s just that I had nothing better to do with my time.
I wasn’t around people that could influence my life. Em, yeah, parents are a funny thing.
Em, they they just want the best for you I guess, bt yeah.
So the question of influences is really important isn’t it. Because you are talking about influences
that are quite universal in your own career now as opposed to quite community ethnic,
you know, that that sort of influence. So, do you still have an association through your
work, with the South Asian community. Like for example, this play that you are working
on. Yes. Well ay the moment, we are working on
a play based on the South Asian gay community and we’re asking a question of what is their
voice and how can we, how can we hear their voice. For me, it doesn’t matter what the
what the identity of the company is. What matters to me is the content. So you could
say that I’ve done four projects which was classify as South Asian. Er one of them was
pretty much after the 7/7 bombings with Rasa and we worked on a production where about
a young, a family, a family who encounter a, whose youngest son, whose oldest son is
a, an Imam, and the youngest son is caught up in this radical, the radical views. It’s
an interesting story because it tells the story of the family, em, and where they are,
at that state in time when we face the 7/7 bombings. The second project I worked on was
with Many Younis, em, was about a young boy dying in police custody and what affect that
has on the family. And also the fact that, at the time, not not a single policeman had
been convicted of death death in custody since the 60s. That was for me a fascinating subject.
The 7/7 was a fascinating subject. Em, I worked with Kali, er, on Tagore’s women, and for
me, Tagore’s women is a fascinating subject, Er, well Tagore is a, I mean, he is someone
we all admire, er, from South Asian community, because he was ahead of his time. He was the
one that advocated women’s rights and voices. He, he was a lothario wasn’t he slept with
many women. He wrote beautiful poetry. He was well educated. He didn’t come from a,
from a hard background. He was, he came from an affluent background. But still a magical
man. Em, yeah. This, and of course this project which is again voicing the voices which we
don’t really hear in South Asian communities. And so for me it’s not about the, the, where
the company is from. It’s more about the project that we do. In ten years, it must say a lot
for a young performer, whose only done four projects, er, with what we identify as South
Asian theatre companies. Because, yeah, because I don’t feel I can identify with them. What
I can identify with is the content. The project, the project’s content. Like the 7/7 bombings
in my beautiful city. Like someone dying in police custody and no one being responsible
for it and how that affects a family. Em, Tagore, someone that you grow up with admiring,
and the gay community, which doesn’t have a voice in our own what we describe as South
Asian community. So those are interesting subjects for me.
And em, would you consider that the em, label like South Asian theatre is useful or not
useful? I think, do you know, I was thinking about
this, and I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, and I think for me, as time’s
gone on, I’ve, to begin with, I’d never accepted it. I hated it. I hated the, the notion of
it. Because it pigeon holes you. It turns you into something you may not be. Er cultural
experiences you may not have experienced, er, because it’s all identified based on the
colour of your skin. Now. For me, essentially, that’s racism, at it’s basic level, isn’t
it. You’re you’re judging someone and their experiences based on the colour of your skin.
And I don’t identify with those stories that are told in those South Asian communities.
I had a very different upbringing. Em, we were very family orientatated. We were very
close, you know. We we grew up in Whitechapel. We had dogs. We, we lived above a shop, you
know. So in some ways you could say it’s a typical existence, but fundamentally, we’re
human beings aren’t we. We experience the same thing that someone ten thousand miles
away is facing at this very same moment who does have a shop, who isn’t the same colour
of my skin, who has children who lives above their shop, who find, whose probably an immigrant,
you know. Their their constant, I just have a human story. I don’t have an ethnic story.
I I find that hard to comprehend because, by labeling, what we do is we stop are society
from moving on. We we, we stop ourselves from evolving. Em, em and that’s what I love about
London. It’s a community. It’s, when the 7/7 bombings happened, we as a community rallied
together and it was, it was a magnificent sight. I can’t stop looking outside your window
’cause it’s my city. It’s the noises that I love, and, so it reminds me, yeah. I don’t
think it is helpful. So, do you think there’s a kind of transnationalism
that actually informs your identity. Yeah, of course. You can’t. I can’t forget,
I can’t forget my heritage. I can’t ’cause it’s part of me. It’s part of who I am and
it’s part of what I’ve grown up in. There there’s that brilliant phrase isn’t there,
the coconut, which, yeah, I I think it does describe me. I’m I’m I’m happy to say that.
And it’s something we talk we talk about in the play at the moment. And I don’t think
there’s anything wrong with being a coconut, because actually, what you’re open to, is
cultures. What you’re open to are stories outside of your own community. Community,
I use that in a very loose sense because what community is for me it may something very
different for someone else. Em…but my, my Indian and African heritage has absolutely
informed who I am and what I want to do and I know a lot about my heritage. And what’s
upsetting is when people who are in South Asian theatre tell me I don’t know about my
roots. And it’s happened to me a few times and I think it’s brilliant in a sense because
what you could be, realize is, these people have a very simplistic view of what it is
to be Asian. They go based on the colour of their skin and what the stereotypes are, and
actually, they are not those people that are branching out into the world. I went to Namibia
for like three weeks and I felt just at home there because, it, it is a magnificent place.
It’s vast lands of roaming animals and these kind of, these really beautiful tribes which
still exist and these beautiful, this beautiful history, em, of the Germans you know, coming
in and they still speak German in Namibia and the four clicks which you have to learn
for the language. They still have the same universal problems that I have. And…I think
that’s what I find really difficult. I find that really difficult that first and foremost,
what I’m branded with is the colour of my skin and not the fact that I can, it’s this,
I know this is going to sound really, I try not to swear, er, this is going to sound really
pathetic in a sense, but I’, really heavily influenced by Shakespeare, especially at the
moment, and there’s a brilliant monologue by Shylock in Merchant of Venice. ‘If you
prick me, do I not bleed?’ And, it’s true isn’t it. The same problem has been occurring
for six hundred, a thousand , two thousand, ten thousand years, And as human beings, we
still not have, we still haven’t learnt the fact that we’re causing the same problem and
not moving on. ‘If you prick me, do I not bleed?’ Hell yeah, I’m going to bleed ’cause
I’m a human being as much as you are, do you know what I mean? We bleed the same colour.
I find it really odd. I find it really odd that we are still living in a society where
we are still trying to pigeon hole each other and it’s, it’s depressing and which is why,
I think, in a sense, I’ve stopped caring about it. When I was younger, I was really angry
about it. And the older I get, I quickly realized that, the people I want to be like aren’t
Asian, in the South Asian community, there there’s maybe one or two who I admire, but
in what we know as British theatre, not white theatre, British theatre, the likes of Paul
Hunter, Hayley Carmichael, em, the theatre companies like Improbable, like Complicite,
the people like Madani Younis who are trying to be more than just, they just want to be
artists. They just want to, they want to work, and they want to do good work, and they, solid
work. They they work on a very simple foundation, that we will try and produce the best things.
And I guarantee you, if you go and see one of their shows and you’ve never been to the
theatre before, you’ll want to go again. Whereas, if you go and see bad theatre, and I’m not
saying South Asian theatre is bad. I’m saying any type of theatre, If you see a bad production,
you’ll not wanna go to the theatre again. Period. Because your first influence is, well
your first impressions are they last. And that’s what I love about them.
So all this, your thoughts and philosophies, what kind of audiences would you like to communicate
these too because, obviously, you are a communicator. Yeah. Em… (laughs) you are a communicator.
That wasn’t very good communication was it. I I don’t believe that there’s, that there
is a type of audience, personally. I think the work that I hopefully do and want to do
and the productions I want to be a part of. Is open for anyone. I like to think the story
that I will tell the company of actors that I work with, would be universal. It won’t
matter whether I’m Asian or, or any other…colour. What matters is the stories that we tell are
universal and you can identify with the person on stage. Not because of the colour of their
skin but because of the words that are coming out of their mouths. That the emotions that
that individual is going through, the journey that they are going through in in front of
your eyes. And that’s what theatre is for me. It’s taking an audience on a journey.
On spectacular journey, whether they laugh or cry or walk out.
You were saying to me earlier that you write your own stuff which you perform for yourself
only. So… (laughs) I don’t perform it.
Oh, you don’t perform it. I don’t write my own stuff and then sit at
home in front of the mirror, ah, that’s very good. No, yah.
So how important is an audience to you. I think audiences are very important. Em,
fundamentally, if if if we just break down what an audience does, fundamentally, an audience
will pay my wage. That’s the very basic. There’s no point lying about that, because, let’s
face it, theatre wouldn’t exist in this country if we didn’t have audiences. We need an audience
to watch. Er, those are two very basic things, for three, for theatre to be created, you
just need an audience there. You don’t need to be paid. But if you want to eat, sleep
and keep warm, then you are hoping for some payment. I’m, I could be wrong, er, and for
anyone that disagrees and just wants to do it for free go ahead. When you are freezing,
I’ll take you in, but ultimately, we, it’s our job isn’t it. We’ve chosen a profession
and we want to be paid ’cause we are passionate about what we do. And I want to eat, because
I like to eat, do you know what I mean? Em… But your audience, if it isn’t for them, who
is it for? You, you know, you said that I write my own stuff and I perform it myself,
I don’t perform it, but what that does is, give me an idea of where I am in my life and
it gives me an idea, so it’s like a diary almost. And I create characters and things
that I may use in other productions. Em and it just helps your mind to tick over. And,
there’s something very, writing for me is is more about my own personal, er, thoughts.
It’s not about wanting to share it. If I wanted to write something to share with people I
would do it. But this, I kind of use it more as my own diary. Em, I always write in the
third person. Em, and I’ve written two one man shows which one was done in Edinburgh.
But it was very dark and it was it was about a cannibal. Now, I can’t imagine approaching
a South Asian theatre company and and saying, I have a one man show about a cannibal. Do
you fancy putting it on? ‘Cause the truth is, I don’t think they would take me seriously.
It’s not the kind of thing I think they want to see. Er, whereas, I think if I approach
someone like Madani and people like that, they, there’s a chance that he would, well,
I mean he has in the past given me a week’s research and development, which we did in
Bradford, and, work then got busy so I couldn’t go back to it. But I’s about engaging our
audiences because sometimes it feels like we’ve got a set audience, but what we are
not thinking about is the audience of the future. The audience that are going to be
going to a theatre in ten years time, and how do we access them. Do we start at a younger
age? Do we start influencing audiences, do we start taking work into schools, and then
what type of work do we take into schools. And then you ask the question of, who is the
cast? Who, what are the colours that we are gonna put into this palette and rep, to present
our work. Because we need to see those, those representations. We need to see a cacophony
of colours. Like we do in London. Like we do in Manchester. Like we do in Liverpool,
in Birmingham. Like we do across the world. It’s not just one colour that we live with,
is it. It’s a range. So would you say the older notion of South
Asian identity is evolving into South Asian non-identity.
No. I think it’s a difficult one, because what my parents went through, I will never
have to go through. The opportunities that my parents had, er, I will never have to go
through because they gave me different opportunities. The racism that they faced, I di face racism,
but not to the extent of my parents’ generation and my grandparents’ generation and, my great
great grandparents’ generation. What we have to remember is we are an involving society.
We constantly are evolving. But if we are not evolving in what we show in, if we are
not telling the stories of the community, then surely we’re, we’re just staying in one
place. Which is safe. Yah. I suppose that’s the thing. We are staying in a safe place.
We are not challenging our audiences. What are we doing? We are just presenting safe
work. And I don’t think I want to be part of just safe work. I think I want to be challenged
as a performer. I don’t wanna be rich or famous I wanna be damn good at what I do. And the
only way I can do that is by working with people that are gonna help me improve and
that are going to challenge me as a performer and that will ask me questions that I can
ask back. And I don’t, for me that’s not really available in South Asian work.
Er it’s interesting because we are coming part of, more and more a part of a shared
community. And so, therefore, for me, South Asian is almost redundant in a shared community
environment. OK.
So how do we, how do you…I mean, personally I think you get a lot of pressures from outside
more than from within. And these pressure from outside actually can have a very negative
effect. It’s up to you to find a positive out of that. So I’d be quite interested to
see, to hear how, you actually find the positive. Em, I think I found it by just not caring
anymore. Em, if I’m honest, em, I did a play which I’m not going to tell you which one,
em, which made be realize that I have a choice in the work that I do, When a good production
comes up and I get an audition for it, I will try my hardest regardless of whether it’s
a South Asian play or not. If it’s a good project, I think I wanna try and be apart
of it if I can. Em, it’s essentially, when I look to those people like Paul Hunter, and
I’ll I’ll always come back to Paul Hunter and Hayley Carmichael, because when I look
at them I go, every bit of work that they do they put their heart and soul into it and
what they want to do is essentially is make the best work that they could possibly make.
And isn’t that a brilliant philosophy to live by. I just wanna make good work. I don’t I
just want to make good work. I want to be pushed to my limits as a performer. I want
to be challenged by the people I work with. I want to know that the stories we are telling
are universal. I want to know that the people that come to see the show are a representation
of the society that I live in. Em, it’s really simple when you are not angry about something,
because I think when you are angry, like I used to be growing up, when I was a young
performer, still am young, er (laughs) when I was younger performer, em, you become very
bitter about theatre and what it is and you begin to loath what you do and I’m tired of,
I’m tired. I’m really tired of it. I simply want to look up to those people that I look
up to, and do the best work that I can do and not have to feel embarrassed when I go
on stage. And whether you like it or not, that, that’s my choice. You can’t tell me
what to do. You can’t tell me the type of work I want to do. Because I’m influenced
in different ways. So it goes back to your thing of, is South Asian theatre community
redundant. Well is, is any community redundant, because they still have a voice, and they
still want to share something they want to do. And that’s fine. Just don’t tell me I
don’t know my roots and don’t tell me that I don’t know where I come from. And don’t
tell me that the work I do makes me a coconut because the work that I do I’m very proud
of. I am very proud to be influenced by the people that I’m influenced by. I’m very proud
of my CV. ‘Cause I’ve worked hard for it. I’ve worked so damn hard for what I’ve done,
and I refuse to be pinned down to a colour or a community. I know I know where I’m from.
And I know what, where I exist in this cycle. We’re going to die one day, so, I’m enjoying
my life for what it is I’m not bogged down anymore by those questions We live in a multicultural
society where people can be what they want and who they want. So. I don’t think it is
redundant. I don’t think any community is redundant. Because every community has a voice,
and I think that’s what I forgot when I was younger and I think it’s what you learn when
you get older. And when you are influenced by other people. That work is readily available
to those people that like it. My question is, are you, are you communicating to that
audience that you’re wanting to reach. If we are specifically talking about South Asian
audiences. Are you reaching the audience that you think you want to reach? And, what type
of stories are you telling? Em, are you doing, are you challenging your audiences are you
offering them a new concepts? Are you helping the young performers who want to go to that
area of work? Young writers? Young directors? Excuse me, because, at the moment there seems
to be a stalemate where where you still have the same directors for the last ten, fifteen,
twenty years, doing the same, similar sort of work. It would be interesting if they mentored
younger directors that want to go into that sort of work, who may be actually, rather
than tap into a South Asian community, maybe tap into the British South Asian community,
which is very different. The plays that my parents watch are not the plays that I watch.
We’re, we’re are generation apart. Now, the problem occurs, when, this generation, my
parents’ generation die out, because they will die out, there will be a time when they
have to pass this world, as I will. Now, if there is not an audience to follow them, if
there isn’t an audience to watch that work, then where is the theatre? What does it become?
And does it then become time, does it then become time to evolve? Or, is it time to evolve
now? Because those people that are making those bits of theatre, who, like me, started
with the right intentions of wanting to maybe change things in theatre or wanting to voice
an opinion, we can’t forget the founding work that they’ve done the very foundation of what
they played, laid down for the likes of myself to become an Asian actor, I hate using that
term, but it’s, it’s what I’m known as isn’t it, in the business that we’re in. I’ll always
be known as an Asian actor. But that’s up to people to decide. I’m a human being. But
my question still remains. When that generation dies out, and you haven’t got that younger
audience coming in, because, they can’t really identify with what’s going on twenty years
ago, then what happens to South Asian theatre? What des it become? Will you then decide then,
in ten years time, when those audiences begin to filter away that it’s now time to tap into
a younger audience where you start doing panic stuff, where you haven’t thought about the
things you’re gonna do, you just put on a production that may bring in a younger crowd?
It’s is an interesting question I think, and it’s a question I’d like to ask those people.
It’s a questions I’d like to ask the, the Arts Council because, let’s face it, the Arts
Council have a choice on who they fund. They, they are essentially the government to the
theatre. And sometimes what happens is it’s very much like a, like our government. The
government will come in. They don’t have a clue about the communities and the societies
that they are working for, representing, but what they do have is an old concept. I’m not
saying it’s outdated at all, because there are those generations of people that still
believe in that concept. But what happens when the young try to voice an opinion. Like
the riots across England. What simply happens is we are shut down, very quickly. Without
a voice and you’re told that you are a troublemaker. Which is what I experienced I think. I was
very much seen as a troublemaker. It wasn’t that I was causing trouble. I was just simply
asking the questions of my peers, and of the people I was meant to look up to, who couldn’t
answer me those questions. So you move on to other people, don’t you. You start looking
to other people to look up to and I found those people. And you know the answers, by
making good theatre. With a very human, basic human story. Like Shakespeare, which is universal.
Which doesn’t matter what colour you are. I was going to say well, apart from Othello,
because, apparently that’s a, you know, ’cause I am sure someone would have picked that out
and gone, well actually, er…Shakespeare’s universal. And that changed my opinion. When
I worked for the Shakespeare company, they, Alison Bomber, who is another influence in
my life, she was a voice teacher who I met, and I never went to drama school, so she taught
me so much, but what she absolutely taught me was, it doesn’t matter about the colour
of your skin. What it matters is, because I always had a problem with it. What it matters
is you are telling a very human story. And what you are doing is you’re engaging with
the community of audience, of audiences. We would take productions to school where it
would be a vast range of colours ’cause I know colour’s a big thing in theatres at the
moment. And what you, what we did do was we engaged with young people at a younger age,
with a multicultural company, who are, whether whether you like it or not, who are the future
audiences that will pay to go to a theatre, because let’s face it, if you want to do free
theatre, that’s fine. I hate this notion that we should do something for free because, we
work so hard, you know, and we work, we work long hours. We put our hearts and souls into
something. And why shouldn’t shouldn’t you get something back from that. I think I’m
trying to, I sound like I’m defending myself, but I am. I am defending myself, But it’s
the younger audiences we need to engage with and if you are just engaging with a colour,
when that colour disappears, which slowly it is, because I know a lot of Asian people
with partners that are not Asian, so their children are not going to be the colour of
my skin. Those audiences are disappearing and very quickly what happens, what happens
when those audiences no longer remain, and what happens when they become tired of stories
that were told twenty years ago, what we can’t forget is the founding fathers of what we
know is South Asian theatre. And I never thought I’d say this, but it’s true. They did so much
for us. But like every government, you have to ask the question how, like every company,
every corporate company, we’ve now, we are now in the market. How do we evolve. How do
we become better than we were teo years ago, five years ago, ten years ago. And the idea
of concept as well is, for me, the reason South Asian theatre doesn’t work is, whenever
a classic play is done, we do a classic thing of setting it in the classic land of Asia.
There’s there’s there’s no… So what we do is we, we give vibrant colours to a stage
and we put a statue of Kali and we have these cod Asian accents ’cause let’s face it, if
you heard my Asian accent, you would think I was an idiot. It’s not that bad, but, but
you know, they are cod because friends from India do come over, and when I hear their
accent, they’re so crisp and they’re so different. And you look at India now, I’m just using
this as an example, as a society, and the last, let’s say the last year alone. How much
it has evolved in terms of women’s rights, in terms of, em, the rape cases that have
now come…become huge in the media, the fact that those men will be hung. A year ago that
would never have happened. India is growing at such a rate, we can’t keep up with it.
It is. And it’s becoming a well developed country. What we do in Britain is we still
think it is, stuck in the Raj. And isn’t it funny that we are known as the more developed
race, in Britain. We’ve developed more than the third world countries. We know so much
more. Yet that country is developing at a rate that we cannot keep up with. And our,
our theatre doesn’t communicate that anymore. But then you, I suppose then you have to ask
the question of, are the audiences ready for it. Because em, you look at the play that
was done in Birmingham about the, the women that were raped in the Gurdwaras and the community
came out and they were they were in uproar, and they had to stop the production. That
was ten years ago. What happens now if we did the same production. Are we ready for
it as an audience. And I think the answer is yes. Because of what’s happened in India.
It will be interesting to see what, if that play was brought back, what the reactions
would be. Are the men still afraid of…telling the rest of the world what’s going on in those
places, and are the women brave enough to stand up, or, well they are ’cause India’s
showing it. Women in millions are coming out and marching and demonstrating and, they are
becoming powerful figures. My question is, does South Asian theatre represent that in
today’s theatre. It’s a question. I don’t know the answer. Em, it may do. It may not.
But it’s an interesting question. Thank you, for ending with a question like
that. No, not at all. I feel I spoke a lot.
You have.

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