Suba Das (British South Asian Theatre Memories)

I’m Suba Das. I’m Associate Director at Curve
theatre in Leicester. Er I’m also a freelance Director and Producer em through my own company
Suba Das Company. And you were born in the UK?
I was, yes. Born em, just outside Newcastle, in 1984, so you can, add up how old that makes
me now. So does your family come from Newcastle also?
No, my family moved over from Northeast India, em, in the 70s. Well my dad came over, er,
in the early 70s and my mum came over ten years later. Em, my father was able to kind
of get all the passports and things that he needed to bring the family over with, British
citizenship. Em, and then, my twin brother and I were born over here, em, and my big
brother and sister were born in India, kind of dad was coming backwards and forwards and
doing, doing trips and things. Em, so they’ve got a very interesting perspective, whereas
for for me and, and my twin, Deba, we, em, you know, the context of our of our upbringing
is very much being, em, one of only two, em, Asian families within a small village, em,
kind of an estate, em, outside of Whitley Bay, which is outside of Newcastle.
And so you’re Bengali? Yes yes. On my mum’s side, yes. And my dad’s
family were, just outside of Calcutta, and my mum’s family had moved over, em, into India
from what is now Bangladesh, em, during that period of time. (laughs)
So do you speak any Indian dialects? I don’t actually, em, and, that’s that’s interesting.
It’s something that I’ve em, thought about, much more in the past few years than than,
I I did as a child. And my father actually passed away when I was ten, em, so I’m not
able to have a conversation with him, er, about it. But the pressure on me and my twin
when we, through our upbringing and through our father’s influence was that he was very
keen, em, and committed to the idea of us being brought up, em…brought up, em, kind
of not not in an English way, that sounds em, er inappro that’s not right, sort of he
wanted us to do the best we could within the system we found ourselves in, essentially,
so his focus was on education and, because you know, we were ultimately quite quite a
poor family, em, and it was, you know, it was a council estate that we were growing
up in, em, and my dad worked incredibly hard, and his, em, priority was that my twin and
I would read a lot, and use, er, kind of intelligence as our way out of, em, a tough background,
er, which, I think, we’ve both managed to do. So there’s, that that, that’s a real victory
there in those terms. But he, really marked a separation, so to the extent that we didn’t
em, go back, we didn’t visit, em, he had a network of friends em, also from India and
em, a community around him. And he was a very popular person, but he was really interested,
in a way, and as I say, it would be interesting to talk to him about that, which I won’t be
able to do, em, but perhaps one day to try and track down some of his, em, elder friends
and see what their perspective was on, why he was so determined to kind of draw a line,
em, and I wonder what there was in, in his background that he was, perhaps trying to,
get away from. I don’t know. Kind of, as a as a theatremaker now, these stories and these
ideas are very interesting to me. And in a way I guess, I’ve not been, brave enough yet,
to start asking the, the right questions of the people who are around. There’s a part
of me that wonders, em, this is where I really hope that my that my mum doesn’t ever, sit
down and watch this, you know, there’s there’s this ten year period of, of my dad’s life,
er, when he was here and kind of going backwards and forwards and, my, my big brother and big
sister were, were born, born over there that, we know very little about. Em, and, it feels
like there’s a mystery there. I don’t know. So you went to study law. But how did you
gravitate into theatre? Em, well I was em, and ag you know, sort of
it comes down to, to when my father passed away as well. Em, he, em, at the point when
he passed away, he had been looking into things like scholarships, for for my twin and I in
the various good schools in the North East, and em, at that we point we went to the local
state school, just over the road from, from where we live. Em, and fortunate to have extraordinary
teachers who, em, after our dad passed away, em, sort of said, well, we’ll help you. We’ll
try and, help you get into a good school. And these were teachers who, of their own
accord, were staying behind, em, late, to kinda coach my twin and I, em on, exam technique
and things like that, and, and my twin and I sat these exams and got into the, er Newcastle
Royal Grammer School, which is a fee paying school, em, and, em, there was a huge culture
there of em, drama, and I was very lucky in that environment, to have the Head of Drama
Mr. Thomas, who was very committed to the idea of students creating their own. So from
the age of about thirteen, em, we were doing, not only doing shows that the school was putting
on but, he was, kind of encouraging students to mange their own projects, create their
own, projects, and resourcing that as well, and I was, as I say, incredibly lucky to go
to a school where that was, er, possible, you know, and I kinda look back on it now,
certainly in my role here, where I support a lot of, em, young artists and developing
talent, in Leicester you go wow, that’s actually quite a lot of organizational effort and quite
a lot of investment, that’s been put in, and I took that for granted in a way. Em, so I
was always making, theatre from from from an, from a very early age. Em, but actually
in all fairness, that culture went back to even before I was at a very good school. One
of my earliest memories was when I was about ten, and, em, the state school that that I
was at, the middle school, the Head of Music Mrs. Greg, had encourage students to try and
put together their own musical. Em, and again, this this real you know, I think there is
this thing about who our teachers are and, having those those people, and all those inspirations,
and opening up those resources, ehem, so I was very lucky to receive all of that. And
the point where I decided what I wanted to do at University and what I wanted to do with
my life, em, you know, my my twin wanted to read law at Cambridge, I was, a lot of my
friends were, and it sort of em, seemed like a very sensible career path, but with that
pressure of kind of, growing up in in circumstances where you know we couldn’t ever afford to
go on, school trips, and we didn’t ever go on holiday, and you’d notice that, because,
actually children, young people are very resilient, and it was fine you know. We had lots of fun
and we had a very happy childhood. Em, but, but there was that sense that there was, more
possible, em, and, as I got into Cambridge to read law, and em, guess I I found it you
know I found it boring, hh hh, em, in all fairness. Em, and I kinda thought if I’m going
to do this much reading, I I want to read stuff that’s a little bit more interesting,
so I switched to English, and they wer very kind and allowed me to do that and the intention
was that I would do, a law conversion course at the end of that, and, a, again you don’t
realize it at the time, you don’t realize how spoilt you are because it’s just what’s
happening, and, em, so at Cambridge a lot of the law firms kind of pursue, law students
and so, even though I’s switched to another subject, I was still getting letters and,
law firms were paying for all of my textbooks and things like that because they hoped that
I would choose to be a lawyer for them, kind of after I graduated, and I ignored all of
that, em, because by that point, I’d started em, directing properly at university. And
just, realized, it’s a very selfish thing in a way. It’s that thing of, you know, getting
out of bed in the morning and having something that really excites you. It makes you leap
up and go yes, I’m going to do this today, and I recurrently had that sensation making
my own work and I thought, OK, well I want to, take this further, you know, em, and had
a very, em, strange experience when I went to the Careers Service, em, at Cambridge University,
which, em, you’d hoped would be, em, a repository of information on, on making a career as a
Director, and was told by two very nice ladies, em, that if I wanted to be a Director, I would
need to em, move to London, em, write some letters to Directors whose work I admired,
em, and you know, if they were Cambridge graduates as well, that might be helpful, and ask if
I could observe their work in rehearsals, and do that, and occasionally I might be asked
what my opinion was, and if I got that right, they might employ me as an Assistant Director,
and after a while, I might be allowed to direct my own shows. But of course, you now, nobody
would pay me for being an observer, and maybe not even for being an assistant, so I’d need
somewhere to live, in London, that was rent free, and things like that. And I I guess
if I’d been em, more naïve person, if the internet wasn’t the extraordinary resource
that it is, I would hav taken that on board and just stopped there, because that is impossible.
That set of barriers means that nobody from any kind of impoverished background is ever
going to access, creating theatre in this country. And I refuse to believe that. And
I, did some Googling, did some research, em, The Stage, em, the industry newspaper at that
point, and still does, had a forum, an online forum about training where people could ask
questions, and I just logged in and I said, you know, I’m, I’m, I’m at Cambridge and I
think I’ve got the potential to become a good Director. I’m doing some exciting, work here.
Em, I want to take it further. Has anybody got any idea on what I can practically do,
given the kind of background that I come from? And, yet another bit of, of luck. Em, a chap
who was the outgoing, President of EQUITY, em, replied, and said that there’s this course
that’s been set up, em, the Birkbeck. Em, Master’s in Theatre Directing kind of funded
by the Arts Council, and, he thought that I sounded like a, a, a good match for that
course and that I should try and find out more about it. Em, so I did, and em, kind
of did the interviews and was a place on on this course, em, and was kind of one of the
youngest people that had done the course at that point, and I kind of went in for my interview,
I remember this kind of shamelessly, sort of saying, and and they said this to me, this
course is designed for people who are, properly committing to this as a career and, you know,
you are very young and and does that mean it’s right for you? And I sort of said, really
straightforward, I I don’t have any, back up options. There is no, limit to how seriously
I take this and how much this matters to me and how much I think it’s something I can
do and offer something to, and contribute something to. Em, so they gave me a place
on the course. But even then, I mean, I was at university, actually university and the
fees weren’t that expensive, but I still had the issue of, that I had to go and live in
London, and do all these sorts of things, and I, managed to, em, by, basically filling
in the most deceitful application in the world, get a career development loan, em, I took
a weekend job, as well, so I was working seven days a week for, em, kind of two years, em,
and, also, and, and this is where the Oxbridge thing comes into it’s own. My, er, college,
Clare College, em, wrote me, essentially a blank cheque, for my training, em, asking
what, what I thought the shortfall was, and they would support it. And I’m paying them
back, em, very slowly, em, and, you know, if I if I ever get that big West End hit,
I’ll pay them off very quickly. Em, so I am, that entire, story, tells you a lot about
luck and bloody mindedness and the financial expense and, I only finished paying off my
Career Development Loan, about a year ago, em, and do all of these things and em, and
yeah, it was it was, it it was, it is, it’s hard. Em, I, as much as I had those hardships,
em, I was lucky to be, er, in certain contexts, em, that enabled me to access forms of support
that I think other people don’t necessarily access, and that’s been my, journey and then,
I, then had the, masterstroke, fortune, to finish em, my training on the Birkbeck Course,
em, spending a year as a Residential Director at Theatre Royal Stratford East, which was
incredibly formative as it felt like a real homecoming. It felt like I’d come from quite
a working class, tough background, skipped away to Cambridge for a few years, and at
Stratford East, found a space for I felt like I was pulling those strands together, and
seeing, and really getting a really practical understanding of this thing that had always
been bubbling away at the back of my head which is about who creates work, who tells
stories, why do they tell stories and and what is that space where people come together.
Em, and obviously that that theatre remains, em, kind of in the great tradition of Joan
Littlewood kind of who, fully committed to exploring that. And that kind of started to
give me an idea of what my working practice was. And I directed, em, a show there, which
was. Em, a production of Medea, em because on the Birkbeck course, we all got a little
bit of funding to do our first, professional show, em, which again is, amazing, looking
back on it, absolutely amazing. Em, golden days for the arts the were. Em, and, I, em,
and that was a, a really complicated negotiation, em, with the team at Stratford East, because
they hadn’t staged any classical work for many many years, em, and I think there was
a real anxiety that I was really wanting to do something really kind of bourgeois, and
academic, and elitist, and Cambridgy, em, and I’m sure they thought that that’s exactly
who I was, that I was the sort of Cambridgy boy. Em, for me, that story felt really important,
and this was what, two thousand em and, eight, that I was doing this there, em, because,
obviously it was not that far after 7/7, em, was it 2009 em, and it was, you know, a period
of time where, there was this rely powerful thing, being spoken about, or or I felt, not
being spoken about, which is, people saying well how can people do this, you know, these
savages, these monsters, blowing people up on the Tube, and the thing about Medea is
a kind of archetypal story, is a self-fulfilling prophecy, it’s a woman who is an outsider,
a foreigner, a migrant, and she’s told she’s worthless, she’s savage, she’s different,
she’s an alien, and is it surprising that under that pressure, somebody then does something
that is horrific, that they feel so disconnected socially, so disenfranchised socially, that
they then, do something of extraordinary social rupture. And that’s, that mattered to me telling
that story in a very idealistic, young sort of way. And, em, and it wasn’t something that
I was really able to consciously articulate at the time. I just knew that I wanted to
do this show. And I knew that I wanted to work with, em, the idea of turning the space
into something unusual. So we, um, kind of dropped the iron, on the main stage at Stratford
East, flooded the entire thing with like sand and rubbish, and the audience came in through
the dock doors as if they were entering this, these kind of huge doors, this kind of, no
man’s land, this liminal, world, out on the edges, and it was em, actually an all Black
cast that I worked with on the show, and not, not in a kind of em, crass way I hope. It
was, they were the three actors that I met who I thought were extraordinary. And part
of that was was was working with a woman called Inno Sorsy, a Ghanaian storyteller, em, and
she sort of worked with Peter Brook in the 70s and things like that, and just radiated
this exceptional, kind of warmth and generosity, and I knew I wanted that for my Chorus. Em,
I could only afford three actors, so I thought, OK, well, she’s the centre of this. Who do
we put around her and, and all this and then, em, because he was working there at the time,
brought in Kendrick Sandy, who runs Boy Blue Entertainment, which is the em, Olivier Award
winning street dance company, em, brought him in, and, em, so created an experience
that was kind of fusing classical text and street dance and, em, live DJing, and a site-specific
staging, and the moment I realized I had a career, or that I, had arrived, was on the
penultimate night, em, and, you know, we had a huge school groups, not huge, I mean we
ciould only fit about a hundred people into the space the way we’d, set it up, but this
particular night, the majority of the audience was a school group, em, and, it was very exposing
’cause it was all very open, so and ev everyone was lit, the audience were lit, and everyone
was was present, em, so I always felt very fidgety when I was there, and kind of really
shy and oh god, all these people er, what did they think. Em, and there were these kids
there. And they were kind of really boisterous. And I sort of thought, were they, are are
they, they must be hating this. They must absolutely be hating this. And, the the piece
ended, em with this kind of extraordinary choreography that Kendrick created for, my
Medea, em, the brilliant Adura Onashile, who is now, em, doing amazing work, in Glasgow
actually. Em, er, and…this this dance thing, which she kind of danced herself to death,
essentially, and these three boys stood up and started stamping and cheering, and they
were about fourteen, em, saying, go on Medea. And I thought, are they taking the piss? Is
this actually, what? And they won’t! And I thought, OK, something’s happened here, some
something that tells me this is the space that I can create work in which is looking
at, and what my work has since gone on to explore, not solely, but one of the recurrent
narratives of my work is looking at, how do we tell, em, epic stories with, a really full
embrace, of the brilliance, of em, kind of, what people would categorise as diverse practice,
which is, for me, things like street dance and pop and, that some of the tropes that
that I’ve used, em, because for me one of the big things is is about our cultural vocabulary
shifting. Em, this idea of the well made play, is fine, and I love a well made play, as much
as anybody, now, I really hope I get to direct Private Lives some day, and things like that.
But, em, you know, oo, one of the really interesting things about about now working in Leicester
is that there is this thing that’s em, the Arts Council did this survey, the Active People
Survey, er, judging, kind of accessing how many people were culturally engaged in the
country, and em, Leicester, em, apparently features in the kind of bottom 20% of engagement
in the country. It is a cold spot. I’ve been here, em, just over a year, and have had the
great, good fortune to see, and encounter so much creativity, em, and so much talent,
em, of, most specifically, in the field of dance. There’s a huge dance tradition in this
city, around participatory dance, so, em, breakdancing, and, em, kind of South Asian
classical and contem, South Asian contemporary dance and things like that. Em, and I guess,
the thing that I come back to is actually we’re not, in the bottom 20% of engagement.
Actually, these kids, and a lot of these people are just not engaging in what the Arts Council
is funding, and what’s being defined by other people as what culture is. And I think that
there is something potentially a little bit inappropriately, paternalistic in that, because,
actually, when I look at what I see, em, young artists creating, em, when I look at certain
kinds of street art, em, and graffiti, and often, dance, I see excellence and extraordinary
skill. And I think that is ignored. Em, so that’s kind of defined my work. So that kind
of brings us, brings us to now, I guess. Em, yes.
So does the British South Asian term mean anything to you. Is it important?
Em, it’s important in the sense, it’s important for me, kind of, in terms of the economics,
I think. It is important for me in the sense of, there, you know, there’s a a fact in this
country which is if you’re from a minority background you’re often likely to be socially
disenfranchised, or have lower social capital, and it matters to me in the sense that I think
that there is em, yeah there’s alienation. Em, so, a lot of the stories that I explore,
so, in terms of my Medea, em, in terms of Othello which I’ve also directed, em, these
are stories about what happens to outsiders, em, and and, em, and, which are exploring
an idea round who holds power, and who is licensed to tell stories, and things like
that. And that, really matters to me. So it’s sort of em, so I guess I’ve abstracted it,
in a way, so in the sense that I’m not, em, although I have, and about to do so even more,
looked at very specific, em, what you may regard as specific specifically British Asian
stories or South Asian stories, em, and that has been a recurrent, em, theme in my career
in terms of my work with new writers, specifically. Em, I guess, em, there’s this, o o overriding
thing, which is about that that outsider narrative, and challenging those assumptions. Em, yah.
So there’s there’s, you have a transnational identy, identity in your background.
Yes. Yup. And I, how’s that, em, kind of influenced
you, in your work. Em, gosh, em, and I was thinking about this.
I mean…one of the fundamental drivers, of my work, I’ve realized in terms of form, and
in terms of things that matter to me, is that I grew up, in a household, where my mum watched
Bollywood films, all the time, with no subtitles. And I wasn’t being taught the language. And,
which em, gave me, and I, you know, kind of did my research and em…er…well, Amitabh
Bhachchan and and people like, and Karishma Kapoor and and these sorts of, em, people
who kind of, at that point where I was in that house and, kind of seeing, all of, or
having all the videos and things coming through, em, you know, was looking at this kind of
really extraordinary archetypal storytelling, em, often seeing song and dance, but trying
to figure out what the hell was going on, and having to figure it out through, em, physicality,
and through this idea of what I’d, kind of shared language might be, em, and em, I guess
what that’s given me as an artist, and this is, maybe not engaging your question in very
political terms, but engaging with them in, in aesthetic terms, is, my obsession with
ideas of rhythm and, space, em, and, em, I always work with a movement director, em,
on my work, em, because I think that, you know and it’s a cliché that you know, 95%
of communication is non-verbal. But that, matters to me. How actually, em, so one of
my, em, and you know, I’ve kind of picked up techniques over the years and that I’ve
slotted into my, approach and developed techniques, and kind of stolen them from everywhere to
give a very specific format of working, and the…one of the things that defines my working
process is a kind of physicalized form of actioning, which is a very kind of em, er,
Stanislavski, kind of, em, act acting methodology, which is, you kind of express everything as
I am doing this to you, and finding these verbs. Em, and I, em, and I think that’s great,
but you you know, my…thing with it was that a find it very academic, very in the head,
not in the body. So I have created. A process, I’m sure it’s a process that a lot of other
people use, so I’m, not trying to say that this is my patented Suba Das directing technique,
but I have this physicalized action process, where it’s not only saying, you know, I do
this to you and this is what I’m doing, but actually physicalizing it an as extraordinary
and bold a way as possible, so if, you know, the line is, hello, and the action is I throttle
you, em so the actors do this and and actually we literally create a choreography of the
entire show, which we could, play back, which I record, which, you know, you could play
back as a ballet if you wanted to. It’s kind of, and it’s pushing, all of that physicality
to it’s biggest, largest, possible, form of expression. So than we then return to the
language, and, em, take all of that way. So right now let’s just look at the scene. So
they are in a kitchen. So they might just be talking to each other and seeing how that
level of physical detail drives the, the momentum of the scene. And that is, you know, it’s
it, it can be quite a melodramatic process, but it’s a process that that is borne from,
this this thing of, em, feeling that there is a, a physical rhythm that shapes language,
and that makes it accessible and makes it, em, understandable, and to have directed by
now, a lot of Shakespeare for example, and had bizarre, episodes arise, I remember being
in a lift, em, at Rich Mix, actually when my production Macbeth was on, and em, em young
guy, em, you know, hoodie er, was on the phone, em, to a friend, and was saying, yah yah,
I’m seeing this Macbeth, this was in the interval, and em, yes it’s really weird because it’s
like, half in, modern English and half in Shakespeare, but it kind of works, and it
was all Shakespeare. Em it kind of aw, it’s a shame you thought half was still ‘Shakespeare’.
But it’s it’s that, and actually the, the, because we’d embarked on that process and
given it that that real dynamic root through it. It suddenly made it open. Em, and I think,
that that is, and it, you know, sort of, people like Pina Bausch had said that you know, movement
unifies and language divides. And I guess I, em…I think that’s linked to that kind
of transnational thing, certainly linked to kind of growing up, in a household with a
very fluid sense of what the dominant language was, and what voices you were hearing, and
how you, just figured out, what was going on, on a day to day basis. And so, you know,
I developed tools, and I now have the great fortune to use those tools in my work. Em,
yah I think that’s where it’s encountered, my practice.
So you were telling me about this exciting festival that you are, putting together at
the moment, and… Yes.
…you know, and all your thoughts are going to come in to the making of this, and, there’s
going to be, em, the the artists and also the audiences would be in Leicester, I suppose,
huge South Asian audience. Em how, how are you going to connect all these?
Em, gosh, I’m trying to think what I’m allowed to say at this stage. Em, a about the festival.
Em, I mean, I suppose in in my role here and in in the work that I create, both here and
elsewhere, one of those linking things, is em, looking at what what stories are being
told, em, and, em, I’ll be I’m going to be very cryptic I’m afraid just because we’ve
we’ve not kind of gone out there, with our big announcements with the festival certainly,
but where, you know, we are, we have the great fortune to have been able to em, take, em,
er, two plays that were originally, em, created through partnership between the Royal Court
Theatre and Rage Theatre in Mumbai, em, and be, em, staging those as a kind of centre
piece of, of the festival. Em, and I guess, what that opens up for me, is, this idea,
and and we are going to be staging them quite specifically, em, with a community cast. Em,
one of the things that I did when I arrived here, and say in terms of opening us up to
that wider community was, a kind of, almost it was almost a competition to find the three
best participatory arts organisations in Leicester, embedded at that very grass roots level, and
say, come here, use our spaces, use our resources, em, these things are open to you. Em, so we
now have an in-house breakdancing academy, and an in-house Bollywood dance programme.
Em, we have an on-house gospel choir, em, and all of these things. And that’s really
exciting. Em, and it’s sort of, and and I say it’s really interesting because actually
these these skills are not necessarily theatre making skills, so it’s now looking at how
we take these people on that journey, of now looking at whether their voice, em, and their,
their talent can be harnessed into creating theatre that reflects that practice and where
they come from. So we’ll be working with, em, the extraordinary Nupur Arts, who are
a South Asian dance organization, em, who have created brilliant work for us here, but
specifically looking at how they interact with these two plays. Em, which are two plays
looking at 21st century, em, Asian experience in a very unusual and, em, provocative, way.
Because I think one of the, the big things is around, complexity, em, and saying there
is complexity of perspective, em, and…you know, there there are stories that, em, are,
I feel, within Asian, theatre, told quite a lot. Em, you know, there are a lot of, er,
plays, around, sort of, you know, em, arranged marriages, em, generational conflict, em,
kind of, for whatever rea…because they are great, rich dramatic sources, of entertainment,
of of text, of of ideas. Em, what I don’t necessarily see presented is work that is
maybe exploring, em, different political complexities, things like, the role of women, em, within,
em, within society both within India and what that means for, for, em, that voice and that
conversation, here, em, within the UK. There I things I find really interesting. I find
it really interesting that, one of em, the most explosive, I think, accounts of em, minority
perspective, and it was a ceri incredibly challenging piece, and, em, er, it was er
DV8’s Can We Talk About This. Em, which er, was not em, er, you know, it it had it’s flaws
as a piece as well, and, em, it had it’s, em, limitations in terms of perspective, em,
but I found it very interesting that that they were a company telling that story, and
where were the companies within our community telling that story, and, why aren’t these
things being commissioned and, and, why aren’t they moving through and emerging as as stories,
within our community that that we are choosing, to tell and explore and confront. Em, and,
I guess that’s sort of em, part of what attracted me to a role in in this city, em, and has,
I guess, the the transition in terms of of my career I’ve spoken a lot about, classical
work, em, and creating work in that tradition, ’cause you know, these are texts that are
available to you, and they exist. They’re great plays and they’re already there. Em,
and I’ve reached a stage in my career where I can think about commissioning, and think
about, finding stories, and inviting people to create stories for me, and have the resources
and the support to develop those fully and properly. And I guess what I’m really interested
in is is em, what stories can we tell that that that aren’t being told. Em, or that,
that matter, you know. I’m there are things that I’m really interested in, at the moment.
I’m really interested in the fact, that I think there’s, got to be, a link, or something
that can be drawn, between, em, you know, em, the, er Delhi bus rape, and also the fact
that em, we have, em, this scenario, where there have been these prostitution rings and,
the press have made, a great deal of the fact that they were run by Asian men, and there’s
something, to explore there, and actually there’s something to explore about the male
identity within that, em, you know, the the there are plays popping up now which are,
quite, importantly looking at the victim’s voice, within us so you know, there are a
few plays that I’ve encountered over the last little while, em, looking at, em, the voice
of a young girl, who may have found herself within, one of these prostitution rings, and
trying to address that. And in a way that, that’s obviously an important perspective
but it’s sort of the obvious one? And I guess one of the things that I’m really interested
in that story is what is the perspective of, er, that Asian man who is, in this Universe,
and where does that come from, and what does that mean. And, you kind of, you know, and
I guess, for somebody who’s coming from, looking at Medea, and Othello, and an Othello that
was very much seen through the lens of a Iago, I’m very interested in the voices of the people
who do the bad things, because they are the voices we need to understand the most. It’s
a it’s a, kind of quite…palliative, or kind of, em, it’s almost a sort of sedative in
a way, to kind of focus on the voice of the victim, and, the poor person who is wounded,
and, of course, we should, of course we should, but, are we going to derive any kind of greater
social understanding, and really start pressing the buttons of what is, em, dangerous, unless
we, spend some time really thinking about the voice of the people who we choose to regard
as doing, dreadful things. Em, so I guess there is a link there, which I never even
thought about, until this very moment, so thank you for giving me this opportunity to
articulate that connection. Em, I don’t know I mean, I’m, I’m really aware that probably,
in terms of a lot of the people you’re talking to, my perspective is a bit different? Em…and
what I wouldn’t want anyone to take away from what I’ve just said is that I’m interested
in focusing on all the horrible things that are going on within, kind of, minority communities,
because there is em, there are things to be celebrated, obviously. Em, but I guess for
me, I have always thought of theatre as a space where, em, people who feel, disconnected
can feel integrated. I think this is a great vision, really, and
I… Thank you.
I think, it’s going to be very successful, your festival.
Yah, I mean it’s a start, you know. That’s, it’s, the fest the festival next year is a
start, em, in terms of, of telling interesting stories and bringing a lot of, wide ranging
creativity into, an institution and a and a and a massive organization. Em, and really
asserting that this is a space where people can be creative, and can look at, their stories,
you know. One of the things that I’m, proudest to have achieved in, in my time here, thus
far, is is establishing this theatre’s first writers programme, em, in a very small way,
and that’s something we are also looking to expand, but it’s just that sense of, again
who’s telling stories, and the fact that…there it’s a skillset, it’s it’s a toolkit, that’s
all it is. And actually we only learn by doing. And, em, I’m lucky, because, as I, we were
saying earlier, I went to a school where I was allowed to do, em, and, was even luckier
to go to a state school where I was, so wha somehow they they found support to allow,
kids, to do, to make, to try it for themselves, to take ownership of it, em, and then university
where that was kind of unquestioningly provided. So you know, by this stage, really I could
say I’d been directing for, sixteen years, em, so if I haven’t figured out a little bit
about it by now, then I’m clearly not, you know, em, but then there are a lot of people
who come to it later, you know. And it’s sort of how do we take them on a on a journey,
and and share that, those skills with them, provide the safe space for them to be, educated,
trained, developed, nurtured, without doing the thing which I do think happens, em, I
think it’s really, important to say that it happens, that people sometimes find themselves
being showcase and spotlight before they’re ready, because we do operate in a society
where there is, in a in a kind of cultural society, where there is an anxiety, about
the fact that, there is a huge amount of subsidy, and yet the product doesn’t necessarily reflect
the diversity of the country. So of course, there is this sense, this embedded sense that
we’re constantly looking for who can our em, er, role models and artists be within that
diverse world, em, and I, without any shadow of a doubt, been subject to this, and been
subject to finding myself em, er, in, moments, contexts, em, on panels and at meetings where
I’m like, why the hell am I here? Em, and I say that not in a kind of fishing for compliments
or anything but for the fact that I know, personally, that I’ve got a long journey still
to go still in terms of my craft and my development. But I think it’s very easy when you are kind
of being put on that pedestal, or being told, right, off you go, to kind of, allow yourself
to think that and think, yah, well, I’m fine, I’m there. Em, and actually, you know, we
we should look at the comparisons. We should look at the fact that there’re, because of
background and education, em, a lot of our young, em, BME directors, em, you know, measure
it you know. I can measure the fact that I’ve done sixteen years worth of directing, actually,
by this point, em, another BME director, whose my age, may have actually, because of their
educational background, only done five years worth of directing. Of course, they’re not
going to be as accomplished in various things, as I might be, because I’ve had, just that
bit more time? Em, unless we’re upfront about that, em, I think we can run a real risk.
And one of the real dangers that that I think faces, em, minority artists, is, not being
candid about about quality, not being candid about, where people are in their development
cycle, because you get this latent thing then, which is insidious and, really unhealthy and
unhelpful, which is where, these sorts of gatekeepers kind of mutter to themselves,
in darkened rooms, tsk, they can’t really do it. Er, and you kind of go, whh, and I’ve
been in rooms where that’s where that’s happened and it’s well, no actually, that’s not that’s
not appropriate. The point is, they’ve not had as much exposure and training and development,
and, getting that right, that that idea of how we’re we are taking people through a coherent
journey of development, is certainly something that’s that’s sat in the root of of the festival
that that I’m trying to set up here. And a lot of the, the programmes and and projects
that I’ve put in place here are kind of around that, trying to. to grapple with that. Hopefully
with some successes? Em, I don’t know. I’ll find out. Em, and I know that within that
as well, there is another really problematic thing which is that you then say well who,
who are these people who are measuring that quality, and, as I was talking about earlier,
when when they say, oh, you know, there’s low cultural engagement, and I say well you’re
not counting these extraordinary breakdancers, and if that skill’s been written off, you
know. So there’s this, this really problematic thing, it’s a really problematic thing which
is that, em, you know, there are venues and institutions which are defined by, em, an
aesthetic which still revolves around the idea of the well made play, and people’s skill
and talent is being measured against where they sit in relation to this idea of, the
well made play, and I think there is a conversation about how we are training people from diverse
backgrounds, to make those well made plays, but there’s a parallel conversation which
is the well made play the thing we should be aiming at. And I have no clue how, anybody
figures that, problem out. Em, and, it’s probably useless to just point it out. Anyone can point
out that there’s that kind of, incoherence there. Em…I think that’s, that’s one of
the challenges ahead. Well I wish you the best of luck for that,
I think it’s a great object. Thank you.

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