Sudha Bhuchar (British South Asian Theatre Memories)


I’m Sudha Bhuchar and I’m Co-Artistic, no,
well. I’m Artistic Director of Tamasha, but from today I’ll be-Co-Artistic Director, because
we’ve just announced, er, Fin Kennedy… Brilliant
…today. Superb, it’s quite fortuitous timing for the
interview I suppose. It is, I know.
For us on our part anyway. I know it’s coincidental, but…
Yeah. That’s an exciting time for Tamasha, obviously. You know, it’s been a great journey
with yourself, so far. It has, indeed, yeah.
Absolutely. I’m sure we’ll talk more about that. Em, but before we do talk more about
Tamasha, I’d I’d like to know a little more about you. Em, were you born in the UK?
No, I was born in Tanga, Tanzania. Tanga, when it was called Tanganika?
It was called Tanzania, no. Oh, OK.
Tanzania, Tunzania. I don’t know, Depends how you say it.
Yeah…cool. And er, is that, would you say you grew up there?
Er, well, look. My early childhood was spent between, Tanga and India. So, my father was
a teacher. So we would go, we would to and fro every couple of years ’cause my parents
would think, oh it’s better for us to be in India. So we spent a lot of the time on a
ship, going from, you know, Africa to India, back to Africa, back to India, back to Africa,
then came to England when I was eleven, and we spent our first year in Norfolk, in King’s
Lynn, so I would say I mean you know, I’ve been here for forty years now. But the first
eleven years were toing and froing between Africa and India.
Wow. And obviously they are quite formative years, they must have had quite an impression
on you. Yah, yah, yah, they are.
Those ship journeys mu, must have been quite long.
Yes, in fact there’s a scene in Strictly Dandia, which has come from us, watching the dinner
and dances in, the first class on the SS Karanja. Wow, the SS Karachi.
So…yah. Wow. And where in India would you have travelled
to? Er, well we used to, I mean we, we’d harbour
at Bombay, you know, but then we, we had spells when we lived in India which was in Chandigarh.
OK. In in Punjab. Because my mother’s brother,
it was always to do with, which family member you could, have refuge with for a while…you
know. Yah…course.
So my mother’s brother lived in Chandigarh, Wow.
And then my mother’s other brother lived in Norfolk, which is why, we ended up here for
a while. So when, one of the questions put to you is
where did you grow up. Is it a mix between places? I mean, you were eleven when you came
to the UK. Yah. I grew up between Africa, India, Norfolk
and London. Yah. Wow. ‘Cause…
‘Cause when do you say if grown up you know. Yeah.
When you are an adult. Yah. So all of those things.
And at which point, did you start getting involved in theatre.
Em, I started getting involved in theatre completely by accident. Em, you know, I was
at school, doing my A-levels, and my sister and I went to see, a Divali function where
Tara Arts were performing. And they were doing these sketches, em, you know, which were to
do with er inter-generational conflict, em, being sort of subversive about religion, you
know, at a Divali function. Wow.
And my sister and I, you know, like a lot of teenagers, felt quit alienated when we
came here. We came here, you know, we had, we had our pigtails and we used to speak in
Punjabi, ’cause we just had a spell in India, and then a spell in East Africa where we were
waiting for our passports, but we had essentially been quite Indianised, and felt, quite strange
here. And going to that function and seeing Diva em, tsk, them perform made us feel quite
connected to to young people who were Asian like us. So, I was extremely shy. I couldn’t
speak to anybody, but my sister’s always outgoing, so she went and talked to them, and they were
very much, you know, we meet on a Wednesday night, come along.
Wow. So…so we went along. But my sister was the
one who started acting. There’s no way you could get me on stage. Hehe. So that, kind
of happened slowly by accident. I used to go and sell the ticket, I said I’d sell tickets
outside, you know. And then one day, somebody was supposed to play the police woman, in
a small part, in a show called Inqilab 1919. And this is Tara.
This is Tara, and I can’t remember of whether is was, I think it was 1979, or 1980.
What was that play called? Inqilab 1919?
Wow. 1990. 19.
19. It was about the Amritsar Massacre.
Ah, of course. But what Jatinder always did in those early
days was making very much parallels of history to here, you know. We are here ’cause they
were there, sort of thing. Yeah.
So I had to go, there was a policeman’s part, police woman, and Jatinder said to me, you
can do it, you know. It’s only two lines. Hide behind your notebook sort of thing. So
I went on stage. On the first time I went on stage, I couldn’t get off, because I went
off the wrong way, (I laughs) Everyone laughed, in the audience. I was absolutely humiliated.
Maybe that was destiny telling you you weren’t supposed to…
So it kind of happened, by accident. Yeah. Brilliant. And at which point then, did you
start becoming inspired into wanting to to perform and be involved in theatre.
I think it was very much a slow burn from those early days at Tara, you know. Em, and
it was all, it was absolutely not, sort of, this passion of I want to be an actor. It
was absolutely that connection that we felt as young Asians, you know, that’s what drew
us. And finding out about our history. I had no idea that, about the, you know, the colonial
past and, you know, and even things like reading Jatinder’s plays. What they were about. You
know, one of the plays we did was an episode from the Maharabhat. So you spent ages reading
the Maharabhat together and you just had no idea, you know. Although some of these stories
we’d seen as children, you know. The Ram Lila used to perform in Chandigarh or, it just
felt like connecting all sides of yourself you know. The history, the, being British
Asian, the kind of identity issues that we all suffered, but, you know we felt like that
was a, place that you could come together. So it was more culturally cathartic for you
than it was, wanting to be an actor. Yah, at the beginning. And then, I I mean
my huge shyness was a real problem like I literally couldn’t talk to people. So it was
also that feeling of, feeling like you could speak, you know.
Yes. Course. So…yah. And meanwhile, I mean I was doing
my A-levels, and then I did my degree, so the whole time I was doing my degree in maths
and sociology, we were at Tara, in the ee, you know, weekends. And my sister had gone
away from acting by then. And I had decided to do kind of, and I enjoyed doing it so you’d
spend your weekends and go on tour and, and Tara itself went on a journey, where it became
a professional company, and so by the time I’d finished my degree, you know, it was a
natural thing to, use your maths and sociology and be an actor. (laughs) So that’s what we
did. So your journey began with Tara.
Yah, yup. And in parallel with that you also kept up
with your studies. Yes.
When your studies finished, did you, em, did you, did did you work or did you immediately
join the theatre. The immediate thing I did was, you know, go
into a play at Tara. OK.
And and, and at that point, Jatinder was very keen to have a sort of repertoire of act,
repertoire, is that the right word? A sort of repertory company where, actors were there,
you know, full time. So we were quite lucky that it coincided, so, you know Shaheen Khan,
you should interview her, Hm, hm.
Nausha, we call, well her name is Naushaba, but her screen name is Shaheen Khan. She and
I kind of joined at the same time. Wow.
And we were there for, you know, I was there for several years. Two three, years? Full
time. And you’d go from play to play and, workshops, and that kind of stuff.
And then from that you created Tamasha. Yes, in fact, during those years then I met
Kristine, as an actor. So this was now, I graduated in ’83. So like from ’83 till ’87
’88, you know, quite a long time, I was there at Tara, er, Kristine came, as an actress,
and we did this play called, The Broken Thigh, which is the episode from the Mahabharat,
and I played Duryodhan, so we were playing men, you know. And Kristine played Karna.
I don’t know if you know the stories but… Only only very little.
It’s the, you know the, it’s the kind of good versus evil where the the the Pandavas are
the five brothers, who represent the good, and I’m the Kauravas, the, the kind of eldest
of… Right.
…the Kauravas who, but actually what Jatinder was doing was showing an episode where, the
good guys end up killing the bad guys, but using rather dodgy war techniques, you know.
So the broken thigh was because one of the Pandava brothers kills my character by breaking
my thighs. Oh wow.
Which is against, you know, the laws of fighting. It’s a war crime.
Yah. And er, Kristine was my sidekick as it were. Hehe.
Brilliant. So it was a natural progression then.
We were friends, you know. We met on, on that job, and er, we became friends, and then she
later on, sort of a year or so later was going to India to teach, em, and she’d ended up
adapting Mulk Raj Anand’s novel, Untouchable So a couple of years, you know, we’d been
friends, and then she showed me the video, of what she had done and em, I just said,
well we should do this here. Yeah.
That’s, so we decided to set up Tamasha. So it was completely organic it seemed.
Yah, totally. And and relatively seamless as well.
Yah, I mean it felt like the right thing to do. And actually, Jatinder from Tara then
gave us a, a sort of grant to do a reading of Untouchable. Em, so we translate, we decided
to do it in Hindi and in English. We had this mad idea of one night in Hindi, one night
in English. Wow.
And we did this reading at Tara Arts centre. Invited, you know, people. So Jonathan Lamede,
who was at Riverside then, came to the reading, and said, oh, I’ll book you, you know. And
we started applying for grants, and so, that’s how it went.
Brilliant. It seems that the er, beginning with Tara, because Tara’s work traditionally
is, is always been quite political and socially engaged. Do you think that’s had an influence
on on on your career in theatre as well? 10:21 SB: Definitely, yah. I mean, you know, Tara’s
work, you know, as I said, it enabled us to connect with our histories, it also, then
we sort of looked within, you know, so we did play, we sort of saw, that there was an
over representation of mental illness amongst Asians, so we researched, you know, that sort
of research base, and looking into our own communities. Em, there was a play called Ancestral
Voices, which I actually wasn’t in, but it was about the older Asian community, and then
Jatinder went on this journey of, em, looking at the texts, you know, so we did, a a real
landmark moment was doing a play called The Little Clay Cart, which was an ancient, I
think 8th Century text, so he also started this whole journey about, the Natya Shastra
and, you know, Yeah.
Different aesthetic, which was not naturalistic. Mm.
And so we just felt like really, we were soaking in all this stuff, you know.
You talked a little earlier about how your engagement with theatre helped you, understand
your own British Asian identity. Em, what does that term mean to you, British Asian,
British South Asian? I mean for us, my generation, em, it’s completely
linked to the history of, of it. So for us, it was an empowering thing, because at the
time, you know, we were trying to say, we don’t say I am a Hindu or a Muslim or a, don’t
give us the narrow kind of, em, parochial identities, ’cause we are all coming together
as one, you know. Mm.
And so the word Asian was something empowering you know. And and, of course over the years,
when you’re, filling up grant forms and all that, things can also be, you know, people
look at you through the prism of racial identity and use it to kind of box you in. But in terms
of when I use it, I feel like it’s imbued with the history of how we decided to use
it, you know. Yeah.
But of course I’m, I’m uniquely me as well, you know. It’s not some, generic that kind
of, em, what’s the word, you know limits us. Of course.
And and I know a lot of people, feel limited by it but, because I have the experience of,
you know, what it meant to us Yeah.
So it doesn’t, you know, it doesn’t worry me to be called British Asian.
Yeah. ‘Cause I see it as, quite empowering really.
Yes. And er, obviously I mean, there’s a whole genre of theatre now, British South Asian
theatre. And Tara and Tamasha are the stalwarts of it, in a way. Em, what does…how would
you charac, would you, though, characterize your work as British Asian.
You see, I sort of feel like this whole thing about it being a genre, I mean, we are all
very different artists, you know, and that’s something I wouldn’t say there’s a sort of
genre that you can say, oh you fit, this is British Asian and this isn’t, you know. If
you are a British Asian artist and you are making work from your unique sensibility,
then that’s your work, you know. Mm. Yeah.
But of course, I’m not stupid and we’ve all had to go, Tamasha’s a British Asian company,
and now we’ve got this huge trying to explain, well, we are also intracultural you know.
Yeah. But, I think, you know, I make work, which
is completely from the prism of me as a British Asian person, so any subject that I might
look at and what interests me, will have me in it, you know.
Of course. Em, but, you know, Tamasha’s plays, have been
very diff, we also take from Western theatre genres, you know. And and, you know, our plays
are quite naturalistic and realistic in terms of the acting…style, you know,
Hm hm. …style, you know Kristine, whom I’ve collaborated
with, has developed a a sort of intracultural approach where she really believes that, em,
the power of an actor is when they come into the rehearsal room with their full selves,
you know. And their cultural identities are all part of that, you know.
Yeah. So so her practice is very much, em, allowing
people to have that power and to harness it, you know.
And historically, through the course of your own work, whether that’s in Tamasha or or
outside of it, do you feel as though your work has, been aimed at any particular South
Asian community? No. What we’ve done a lot is, em, if we’re
researching a particular subject, you find there’s a sort of, a kind of identity groups
that associate, because they see themselves as being reflected on stage, you know. So
there’s a few examples of that in the history of our work. You know, one of the most compelling
one would be, em, Strictly Dandia, you know. Where the play was looking at intercast rivalries
within the Gujarati community during Navrati. So we went and researched it. So of course
the Gujarati community felt, a big stakeholder, you know.
Yeah, of course. Em, and then it’s not a surprise, if a huge
audience of Gujaratis is coming to the play, because they relate to it, you know. But it
it’s not that we want to narrow, I think you know, we’ve, we appeal to multiple identity
groups. And we have very show specific audiences as well, you know.
Absolutely. This is a, em er, an interesting question was, er, I suppose the time that
we’re in. Do you think it’s, and it will be particularly interesting to have your input
on it, do you think it’s still useful though to consider British South Asian theatre, as
a distinct genre. I mean I’ve never considered it as a genre,
you know, this is what I’ve, sort of, tried to say, as in, an ‘aesthetic’. I’ve considered
it as a, personal outlook, but, you know, if you look at everything Tamasha’s done,
you know, genre’s are things like verbatim, or a musical or, you know, in a sense, for
me, our aesthetic is unique because of who we are as artists. And all of us are unique,
you know. Hm hm.
I don’t think you can say, if there are three companies that are categorized as British
Asian, that our genres are the same or, you know.
Yeah. And is there a common thread then, do you think, between the stories British South
Asian theatre practitioners have sought to tell. Do you think there’s something that
has linked them, even though there has been these variety of voices and variety of stories.
Do do you think there is a common thread between the stories that have been told historically?
Em, that’s a good question. Is there a common thread. I mean I think, you know, sometimes
there are, sort of subjects that people want to investigate, you know, and are and are
still writing about, you know, so like for instance, your play. That whole thing of intergenerational
identity and experiences in this country. I think we’ll sort of write about that, you
know, eternally, probably, you know. Em, that kind of thing. Or you know, looking at our
communities in a sort of unique way, so something like Snookered, although it’s looking at,
em, dispossessed young people, the fact that it’s about the British Muslims from the Mirapuri
community that the writer comes from, gives it a kind of perspective that’s, you know,
culturally specific. Yeah.
So I think that is probably something that you can look at all our work. And then some
people are doing kinda big explorations in genre like, you know, Britain’s Got Bhangra,
that Rifco did, was very much looking at how British, the British Bhangra scene, evolved,
you know. Going back then to, your journey and yourself,
Em, at that point in which you decided then that theatre was going to be your life, considering
that you’d done a maths and sociology degree… Yes.
…and even that degree is a bit of a, a strange compilation I suppose, maybe for some, em,
what was the reaction of your friends and family that, suddenly now you are going to
work in theatre. Eh ha. Well, my mother, ha, was a widow, you
know. I mean she sort of used to joke, but there was some truth in it, that, you know,
that Jatinder Verma has kind of led our girls astray, you know. (laughter) So she would
be er, you know, I mean, I think she already felt like, em, because we didn’t kind of grow
up in the heart of the community, you know. My mother was a young widow.
Yeah. …you know, it was a hard life. And then
on top of that, you do a degree and then you say you are going to be in the arts. So I
think she was worried for us. And now I’m a parent myself, I can completely understand
it. Yeah.
If my boy said to me, I want to be an actor, I’ll just be like, hh my god, you know. What
what do you think you’re doing you know. So I can understand, you know, my mother, but
actually, in her own quiet way, well she was quite fiery at times, like if we came home
late from rehearsals, she’d be, cursing Jatinder Verma, you know.
Yeah. But, actually she has been quite an anchor
and a support, you know. Yah, so. And do you feel as though, mm mm, that in
your artistic journey, there were any particular hardships, or any trauma, as such, that, you
being an artist, either it helps you deal with that trauma or the trauma helps you,
in your art even, I suppose, has there been a relationship?
Between, sort of traumas related to the art of related to anything.
Well, well in your life I suppose. And, and and your work as an artist.
I mean there’s been many traumas you know. Hehehe. I think, I mean it was interesting,
because I I I was reading a while ago, er, Alan Bennett’s memoirs in his Untold Stories.
And he talks about how, he got diagnosed with cancer, and at one point he was told he didn’t
have long to live. And he had this sort of inner voice, that said to him, oh well, at
least, em, you know, if I if I survive, I’ll I’ll sort of, get to write about it, you know.
So I think, there is, definitely a kind of, em, what’s the word for it. I mean you do
feel as though the work, the work does kind of give you, some kind of way of dealing with
life. But equally, I think, being a being a being an artist is quite, demoralizing,
as well. Traumatic in itself is it. Yeah of course.
Traumatic. Yah, absolutely traumatic. Because you, hh, you just sort of feel like you’re
on this parallel journey and you’re always explaining and you’re always, justifying and,
you know, em, but there’s been lots of, and you know, recently, you were there, you know,
I I did this piece at the, St George’s Hospital, which was very much, looking at personal trauma,
you know, because, in my family there’s a history of heart problems and, em, my brother
died you know very, at a young age, very suddenly, and so I, I wanted to look at, sort of, and
and try to make people aware that, you know, Asian, communities, face bigger dangers on
that front. And so I did this piece called Golden Hearts which is in really early development,
and at the same time, my mother was dying, you know, so I ended up writing quite a personal
piece about, heart problems, but it was sort of about, the effect it has on families, you
know. And that’s something I still want to to write about. And actually it’s a weird
thing that you’re doing and sometimes you think, oh my god, I’ve just sort of, what
am I doing you know, hehehe, doing this, so, I think there’s been many occasions of that,
you know. Yeah. I mean, I hope that wasn’t too personal,
but I think, where this question comes from, I think what it what it’s doing is just acknowledging
that, as well as being artists, we actually live real lives.
Yes, of course. And have, you know, there’s a negativity in
our lives. Yes.
Interact as though, with our art, and our and our practice.
There is definitely, and I know my children, I mean I’ve written two children’s plays.
One is Child Of The Divide, which is about the experience of children during Partition,
and one was called Small Fish, Big Cheese. And my children, have been an integral part
of that, you know. Literally things that they say, and, in a way, I was writing about the
Partition, but it was because, you know, one of my child, children sort of said to me em,
you know, asked me a question about belonging and where, where they come from and Small
Fish, Big Cheese was about, these kids who think the world’s going to end, you know,
and that again came from one of my children saying em, when, the world is going to end
in 2012 and I’ll have spent all my life at school. Hehe. So I kind of explored that whole
thing of, you know, and and in fact, my youngest son will say, is there any bit of dialogue
of this you’ve actually written yourself`? You know, because he thinks he’s given me
all the dialogue. And he probably has, you know.
Yes. You’ve obviously had a very unique transnational experience. EM, your’s is particularly unique.
I mean even my, my maternal side have an East, East African link. But your’s is quite unique
in that you had an East African, Indian… Yah.
…and a, UK link. How would you say that has informed your identity as it is today.
I mean hugely, you know hugely. And again, talking of trauma, you know, as a child, I
found that traumatic. And I think that, being shy and going inwards was very much, you know,
can you imagine, having gone to all the, different schools and…
Of course. …the disruptions, and, you know. I actually
found it quite traumatic. But now I, sort of see that, you know, I mean on a very basic
level, my access to the Indian languages has come from, you know I mean I, I could read,
I could em, speak fluently Gujarati. Yes.
Because all our neighbours were Gujaratis. Yeah.
So the fact I’ve ended up writing about them, you know. And then I played a Gujarati, and
the Gu, the Gujjus would assume that I’m Gujarati. But you’re from a Punjabi family.
Yah, exactly. But I think being in East Africa, you had access to all the languages. I’m always
surprised, sometimes I see, the people who have come directly from India, and they can
speak one. Indian language. And they find it really hard to access, the others, you
know. Yes.
So that’s been really er, kind of positive by-product of it, you know.
Yes. Em, coming back to your work now, in the in the present day, what audiences do
you hope to reach with your work? What audiences. I mean I think, you know,
it’s always thrilling to see, people, who the work is about, seeing themselves reflected.
But I, I I very much enjoy it when there’s mix, culturally diverse audience, you know.
So you can sort of see the universe, I think I really do believe that, even things that
can be culturally specific, but they are more universal for it, you know. So I don’t believe
in kind of doing segregated audiences, you know. But equally I believe in empowering
our communities to, feel like they can go to the mainstream, you know, stages and see
them, their own live reflected on stage, you know.
Yes. And is is that, are are they the sort of audiences you are getting? Are you getting,
a, a mixed, culturally diverse audience? We really are. But I also feel that, because
our work is so different, you know, our shows can be huge musical, or they are like a two
hander, hehe, you know, so we get very show specific audiences. So something like The
Arrival, I don’t know if you saw that, but you know, it was a circus, theatre, collaboration
with circus space, you know, very different kind of story about migration, so you’d get
a much more diverse, em, and new audiences, and then something like Snookered, you know,
a lot of British Asian young people came to see that…em…
Yeah. So depends really.
And how would you say your work reflects the lives of everyday people.
Em, well, I think for me. I’m very much inspired by, the everyday, as you know. I really do
believe in, kind of talking to people, research, I often, I love people in their own words,
you know. I think there’s, the poetry of people in their own words, is just, second to none.
Yeah. So for me, I’m like a magpie that, overhears
conversations and life, and that is at the heart of my work, even if I might write about
the Partition, you know, it’s like the, the kind of language I chose to write it in is
a sort of hybrid of Punjabi, you know, it’s set in Punjab, 1947, but this kind of ss,
the kind of speech dialogue of everyday street speak, I’ve used that in the kind of, English
that reflects the Punjabi, if you see what I mean, you know.
Absolutely. Yah.
One of the focus group questions was em, about people in rural areas, who they’ve, who feel
as though they are not as connected to theatre, em, I suppose…
What, the, Asian people or…people in general. Just general people in rural, in rural England.
Saying within, generally theatre, they felt didn’t reflect their lives, so they didn’t
feel compelled to go to performances, em, and have a bit of an urban rural divide also.
They feel that within within within general theatre. How do you feel about that. What
are your thoughts on that. Em, I mean I can, I can obviously relate that
they might feel, absolutely feel that, you know, I know there’s been, over the years,
drives by the Arts Council or, you know, to get theatre there, er, I mean in a sense,
you know, I have to be honest and say it’s not something we’ve tackled, you know, head
on. Like we haven’t done a, Tamasha Must Reach Rural Areas, kind of drive, you know. Em,
might be interested to, to go, but, I mean, I think obviously one of our drivers has,
has often been, sort of finding, mm, the communities that the work is about, so areas where there
is more diversity, has made for sense for us, you know.
Of course. But that’s not to say I wouldn’t want to…
Yeah. …you know, travel.
Your experiences are particularly interesting. You’ve seen, em, British Asian culture, em,
in England, and Britain change, er over over a few decades, without giving away your age.
(laughs) It’s OK. I don’t mind giving way my age. (laughs)
I’m old. (laughs) How would you say that your work has evolved
over that time, in the context of that changing South Asian culture.
It’s really interesting. I mean I think we found ourselves quite, inadvertently being
pioneers, you know. But also things like, I mean I I kind of find it so funny, because
when I first came here, I I was in a salwar kameez, you know, s, this whole kind of, em,
pashmina shawl syndrome, you know, that, now it’s everywhere, and everyone’s wearing it.
In a way I did it all fifteen years before, you know.
Yeah. So I’d be wearing salwar kameezes and shawls
and bangles and things when nobody else, you know, I’m not saying nobody else, but you
know, I’d generation were doing that. Er, and funnily enough, by the time, the sort
of pashminas and all hit, I was kind of over, hhhe, over that phase you know. So I always
feel like you’ve kind of been there, at the first wave of things, and you know, things
do come in waves. So of course we’ve also seen, Asian food and, well we did a play called
Balti Kings, in 1999, you know, which was about, Birmingham’s Baltiland. Em, at that
time, there was just the beginning of, you know, those pile your plates, for a fiver…
Oh yeah. …kind of revolution, all of that, so, you
know, that’s all come and changed and, I mean I just feel like we’ve absorbed it all, and
sometimes felt a bit like, oh god, I’ve seen this, fifteen years ago, you know. Yah.
And where do you feel, the state of theatre generally is, today.
My god, that’s a big question. That’s a huge question.
I’m not sure I can answer that. (laughs) State of theatre. You know, I don’t I wouldn’t say
I see enough theatre. Er, but I do, I mean definitely do feel like, in some ways, a huge
amount has changed and in some ways, we’re still struggling with the same, same thing,
you know, you go to the mainstream houses and, you are the only non-White person in
the audience, you know, quite often. So all of that is depressing you know. And I do think,
obviously in this recession now, you know, you do worry about new writing, because you
can see that, er, people would rather commission a well known book, or a well known something,
and adapt that. And you know, and not saying I don’t do that either but, I’m worried that,
you know, for instance plays like Child Of The Divide, which was, co commissioned by
Polka Theatre. You know, you look at children’s work now, and it has to be, adaptations of,
you know, Charlie and Lola and stuff like that. And you can understand the kind of commercial
driver, but I do, I’m sort of worried about theatre that truly is reflecting, changing
society, having a home, you know. Yeah. Em, do you feel there’s any obvious
solution for that, or… Well I think ehe, people need to kind of open
their eyes and not lead monocultural lives, you know, and look around and see what’s going
on. And, kind of engage with that I think, you know.
I suppose that’s been part of the drive for, opening out your work to as diverse an audience
as possible. Yah, yah. But it is, you know, the financial
climate is con, of concern. Hm hm.
And also what’s of concern is, you know, with Tamasha’s experience, you know, it’s quite
hard to maintain relationships, because people change and artistic directors change, and
then you can find that, eight years of something you’ve built up, is sort of meaningless, you
know. Yeah.
And I think, I think BME artists, are not connected with what’s come before. You know,
you want people to build from what has come before.
Of course. You know, and kind of informed by it. And
then have their unique voice, you see what I mean.
Yeah. So em, if somebody wants to write a play about
the Partition, I’d sort of say to them, read the plays that are already there, you know.
Yeah. Em, so you’re not writing a sort of, lesser
version, do you know what I mean? Of course.
So do something that’s, kind of, informed by reading and, em, what’s already there.
Do you, this is the penultimate question, em but this question’s got a two parter. Em,
do you feel, as though, it’s necessary to reflect, or represent, South Asian communities
in your work? Do you feel that’s necessary for you as an artist?
For me, it is, it’s been my driver, you know. I mean a lot of people will say, oh, that’s
really limiting or you know, I don’t find it limiting, at all.
And so would you feel that, with the, the changing South Asian communities today, in
the way they’ve changed, do you feel as though they are being, em, reflected and represented
as well as they, as well as they should? I mean they are, but I wouldn’t say it’s as
well as they should by any means. No, I mean I think there’s a whole, you you know, there’s
there’s only a handful of plays every couple of years isn’t there.
Of course. So purely for the process of improving that then…
Yah. How do you think they could be better represented.
No I mean I personally think it’s it’s it’s, it’s got to be a passion that comes from people
who want to make the work. Right.
You know, rather than a, a sort of directive, you know.
Yeah. But of course the conditions, need to enable
people to feel that. I mean I myself, you know, if people say to me, but you’ve kind
of made it, you know, you are pioneer, you’re this, you’re that, but I actually also in,
in myself I feel like as BME artist, your career is not incremental, you know.
Hm hm. You it it, it isn’t informed by what you’ve
done, and so therefore you build and build and build, you know. You can still be going
and doing two lines on television, you know, as I often do.
Mm. And it that is the most, eroding thing, and
if I feel that, and from the outside, people say, oh you’ve been making your own work,
and you, surely you can do it and build, why aren’t you building on it, you know. Em, it
is it is, quite difficult, I think, you know. This is the final question. Em, before I ask
it, I’d like to say thank you for the generosity, er, in your responses and your honesty.
Pleasure, thank you, hehe. It’s been quite enlightening already, but,
would you like to end by telling us about any particular works of yours, em, that hold
the most importance for you. Particular works of mine. Mm, good question.
Hh, well, I mean, one of the plays for me, which is very close to me, and I feel like
my voice is really there is Child Of The Divide, er, definitely. Em, and in actually, to some
extent, I’m picking both my children’s work, Small Fish, Big Cheese, as well, you know.
I do feel that, em, and and interestingly enough, you’ve with everything that you do,
there’s this huge drive of how do you promote and market it and everything. And with Child
Of The Divide, I found that, I don’t know how, it’s the one experience I’ve had, where,
I have felt I haven’t had to really, although I’ve never toured it, but you know, like,
somebody from Tamasha, Rasheed, our marketing manager is kind of, phoned me one day and
said, oh, do, do you know, this is on a, reading list, for English literature…
Wow. …and A-level and A s and you think, how
did that get there. Amazing.
You know, it felt like there was other advocates, with that particular thing.
Yeah. Although we still haven’t done a tour of it,
and, you know, that still feels hard to, get off the ground, but, and then a a German teacher
came in, knocking at the office one day and wanted fifty copies. You know, so there’s
this little mini, wave of something. This is the Child Of The Divide?
Yah. And I thought, where did that come from, you know
Excellent. Congratulations. Sudha, thank you very much.
Thank you.

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