Suman Bhuchar (British South Asian Theatre Memories)


Hello. My name is Suman Bhuchar. I work in
the arts. I do a lot of different things, It ranges from PR and marketing for theatre.
It ranges from advocacy in theatre to try and get a Asian, British Asian theatre history.
It ranges from working in television, making documentaries still pitching Asian subjects,
cultural diversity, er, and some writing, basically. So I’m an arts producer, entrepreneur,
jack of all trades type of a person. Master of none but slave to a few.
Em, I was born in East Africa, in Tanzania. We live there until, em, I was about a teenager.
I came here in ’74, and, we’ve lived in the UK ever since. It’s going to be forty years
this year. Scary but true. Well, I got involved in theatre as a as a
teenager, em, initially, by, going to see a sketch, I think it was a Divali sketch show
that had been done by Tara Arts in the very early days, em, I’m thinking of mid-seventies,
I can’t remember the specific date, and em, it was just a few sketches about em, er, you
Asians and some satirical, em, sort of things, which appealed to me, and em, I, found out
a little bit more about the company. I think I met some of the early members. Maybe somebody
like, Praveen Bahl, Sunil Saggar, Ovais Kadri, er, around that time and, and er, just it
evolved from there, really. And then I started to go to Tara Arts. Em, at that time, er people
like er Shaheen Khan, who’s now a very professional and well known actor, em, Paul Bhattacharjee,
now late sadly, you know, er, Rekhar Prashar, Arti, Yogesh Pal, sorry, yeah, just, Yogesh,
not Phal (Bhatt), I’m sorry, I got that wrong. Er, just you know, these few people around,
and the company was, em, one could say, amateur in today’s parlance at that point? Er, and
er, I just got invol involved in some of the productions really, so I got involved initially
as an actor. So, you like acting do you?
Er well, I think I did it for one or two years or something like that, but, I think, er,
em acting, you know, now I can say, I think it’s quite a hard thing to do. So, em, I did
not, er, pursue my acting, er, when the company moved to become professional. However, my
love for theatre, er was ignited around that time.
So how did you develop your other aspects for your, your love of theatre?
I think it just sort of grew, and it was there, er, and then, my sister, Sudha Bhuchar, er,
and her friend, Kristine Landon-Smith, set up a theatre company in the, in 1989, and
they were about to do their first show, well their first show was on in ’89, so prior to
that, when they were setting up their company and talking about it, you know, I said that
I would, er, I would, er, like to be involved, and I just, em, got involved in the marketing
and promotion area, and it kinda grew from there, and I found that I really enjoyed that,
and I continued, in that field, em, so I worked with Tamasha on quite a lot of their projects
in the early days, say from 1989 to er at least 2001 on all their regular shows, and
then after that, em, on a bit more ad hoc freelance type basis. But, you know, within
that period, the whole of the Asian theatre scene in the UK was also evolving and growing
and I kind of just got involved in that, in that way. You know, I I think that er, em,
I have been involved in creating an Asian audience now, in inverted commas, for, the,
theatre work that was being done by the British South Asian community in the UK from the late
80s, onwards really. So how was the the em, er, South Asian theatre
developing then, you just mentioned that about it’s development. Could you give us some indication
of the key ways in which it was developing. Well I I think, you know, er, people get involved
in things if you have a passion to be able to do something about, about it. So, er, Tara
Arts was specifically set up in response to the death of Gurdip Singh Chaggar and trying
to do something political, or address it, through an artistic and cultural way. Er,
when Tamasha was set up, er, they were two women, and, who wanted to, again look at,
em, addressing some of the gaps in the theatrical landscape in that way, which is having women
in the central role at the driving force of it, and they were trying to do, use, one could
say, tell Indian stories, or be a bit more, er, populist, in their approach to trying
to get people to, em, raise and understand issues through theatre, and then, at the same
time, Kali Theatre also set up another women led theatre company, you know, so, em, the
evolution is organic. I mean, you have to feel something about a subject matter, and
respond to it. Of course there were other considerations because of that time in the
late 80s when Tara went professional, there was a whole issue about how could young Asian
actors, who did want to work in a professional capacity, get a membership for EQUITY, and,
it was quite difficult to do and I think, that, er, theatre companies who had some sort
of a rep, er, approach, er, had to nominate people, to be able to get tickets, so, all
these other issues about productions, about employment, were also there, em, so the driving
force, is, a mixture of the desire to want to do something, creative, as well as to create,
opportunity for yourselves, through a creative, er, manner.
And now you write about em, Asian theatre. Well, er, my evolution in theatre, has been
from that as an actor initially to promoting theatre. I still do promotion work, you know,
and marketing because I feel, as I said, it’s a passion that’s grown, but over the years,
I’ve also tried to er, produce a couple of things with a young company called Lucid Arts,
you know. I have also now taken to trying to write and do some interviews for a website
called TheatreVOICE, er, which is part of the Victoria and Albert, er, theatre archive,
because I feel that, even in, my own lifetime of being involved in it, we’ve created a certain,
history in this country, er, about that area and, em, it just needs to be, er, part of
the wider landscape of theatre, so I’m quite keen that it gets, recorded in some way, so
even, what your project is all about is an important part of that process. I mean, I
could give you an example. You know, this year we’ve jus celebrated the 50th,, em, anniversary
of the National Theatre, and although, it’s been quite big in some ways, I’ve heard nothing
said that Tara Arts has had four shows at the national, within those fifty years. So,
you know, again one is neglected and you don’t want to feel, bitter and twisted about it,
but sometimes it’s a little irritating you know.
Yah, I wanted to ask you about this kind of em, developing audiences because I actually
had the National Theatre in mind, you know. Audiences that go there are predominantly
White and middle-class and, more elderly as well. Em, and how do you feel about this,
em, I mean, to me, it’s it’s a little bit of an irritation that there’s these divides
you know. And especially amongst our national theatres in sight of er developing audiences
from eth, different ethnic communities. How do you feel about that?
Well, you know, em, I’ve been doing it off and on since, since the late 80s. I think
that, I would say that, most of the people who run the theatres and so on, they’re really
quite nice and open people, er, so but when you do, em, specifically an Asian show or
something like that, you know, everybody, em, er, is very enthusiastic to, to get a
new audience into the theatre and so on, but, because marketing is such an immediate thing
and so responsive, and people don’t really think, that, once these people have walked
through your doors, they may be interested in other, other, shows. You know, they may
wish to be interested to be part of your Board perhaps, or whatever, and, er, that’s what
ends up happening. I mean, I have, you know, badgered all the venues that I might have
been involved with to encourage them to, em, keep the audience, em, interested that if
you ignite in somebody a love for theatre. So if you bring a family to see, say, a Tamasha
show at the Birmingham Rep, which is based on a, a Bollywood, er, musical, fourteen songs,
two weddings and a funeral, let’s say, it’s a very family show, people have seen it, there
is no reason why they may not like to see the Christmas show then because that Christmas
show may be very family led, but you know, you you have to be creative in your marketing,
and you have to think like that, and sometimes, people don’t have the time or the mental capacity
to do that, because, if your show sells out very quickly, then you think, oh, I don’t
need to worry about getting anybody else in, for any other reason. But, you know, so I
do feel, em, sad, that that dialogue is not an evolving one, it tends to be in stops and
starts, you know. Er, I’ve just noticed that myself from the, work that I’ve been involved
in and just taking the National Theatre example in mind, you know, em, maybe, maybe those
shows were too much in the past for somebody like Nick Hytner to take note of this year.
Who who knows. I I don’t really know, you know. Em, em, and they, and people are just
living in the present, in that way, so, it’s a complicated question, and I don’t really
know what the right answer is. But as I’ve gotten older and in myself, have got, you
know, a little more, em, er, what’s the word for it. Kinder about how I see those things,
you know. Just have to keep badgering. So let’s come back to the audiences because,
a as somebody’s that marketing, a, a, production, you must have many many different audiences
in mind, I mean, different strands of audiences. I mean, how do you, work, that out in your,
in your strategy. I think I try and think of the product that
I’m involved in and to, really think creatively about how, who might be interested in it,
you know, and how to pitch to them. Em, in the old days, I did a lot of, what you might
call, direct marketing, or now they call it, arts ambassador, which is really talking to
people with leaflets type stuff, and I still do that, today, despite a lot of, er, other
avenues, and em, but alongside that, you know, I’m quite aware of social media, em, the niches,
so if you were to take, er, two plays that are on right now, you know, one is a, play
by Phizzical theatre company, er, it’s a it’s a Bollywood transposition of er, Cymbeline
that’s going to be on in London and it’s been touring the UK. So, somebody like em, Phizzical,
you know, he’s been based in Leicester, er, for around ten years, em, the company nurtures
young, er, talent from the UK, so, the pitch for his show is probably the younger Asian
audience who have only started going to theatre maybe in the last ten fifteen years, and they
may not know anything about the earlier theatre work, em, em, whereas, at the same time, you
have Rani Moorthy who is doing a show which is called, If Only Shahrukh Khan which again
takes, a sort of a Bollywood framework to tell a story that’s a little more serious.
It’s about three women who, run a Bollywood fan club, and into their lives comes a young
black man who says one of those three women could be his mum. Now, that to me has parallels
to Mamma Mia, and also an Indian film called Mother which is, where Rekha was the, single
mom, and three guys come and figure out who who, you know, whose daughter, if it’s their
daughter. So, you know, I try and think of all these kind of mad type angles to, to connect,
em, and, again, it’s a mixture of, er, direct and indirect, social media, talking, at the
end of day, you know, the whole thing about talking to people about it is quite important,
really, even though, they may have seen it on Facebook, ro, anything like that.
To me it some, seems to be a kind of ethnicising of theatrical venue. I mean if you look at
Cymbeline, it’s a appearing at Tara Arts next week. Rani’s work is appearing at Watermans
next week, both of whom, have a focus, of em, South Asian audiences. And then you look
at, em, em, em, the Curve, you know now, Leicester, em, you know, and that again, you know, has
a young South Asian director at it’s helm, you know. Em, and…
Well, in the in the Studio, for the Studio really. You mean Suba Das.
Yes, yes. Yah, I mean I just met him last week, but
he is only trying to, er, create work, in order for the Curve to develop it’s South
Asian audience and he is working in the Stu, in the Studio but, you know, the Leicester
Curve, it’s predecessor the Leicester Haymarket, has been involved in trying to create South
Asian audience for at least the last two or three decades and, the question really should
be to the Leicester Curve, artistic or chief executive, as to, why they, you know…
Absolutely. …always have to start from the bottom. But
this the nature of, British South Asian theatre in a sense. You are, always working your way
up from the grass roots. And why should you ’cause, after all, Leicester
is predominantly South Asian anyway, you know, it’s it’s population. And em, I think em,
tsk, this is why, where, that’s why I’m asking you this question. Because you are in marketing,
and, you know, it’s kind of interesting to hear what you have to say, about that. Em,
and, I mean, if you feel, there’s, the di di difficulty is still, and, you know, are
still here today, after, after, three decades of work, you know, em, where are we moving
to. Are we moving anywhere at all. Is there, do you see any improvement. Do you see any
progress, real progress. Well, there’s real progress in lots of different
ways, in the sense that the artistic community has grown a lot, er, in the sense that the
talent that it has created has been, sort of then rediscovered for television and stuff
like that, for example, if you take, say, er, my sister’s theatre company, Tamasha,
which actually took a chance on a, actor, who was writing his first play that’s Ayub
Khan-din, East is East, and they did some workshops, you know, like writing workshops,
which they still do now, and last year, they discovered Ishy Din, or, maybe Ishy Din and
Ayub were always there in the talent but it takes somebody to spot it, and to nurture
it, so, em, and Tamasha has a very strong arm of developing artists that continues to
do that, but, you know, once they’ve discovered these people, everybody else also wants to,
to then throw money at them or encourage them to write. So that’s great for those individuals.
In in that sense, em, the South Asian theatre company has been good at, em, doing that sort
of stuff, so, if you are talking about progress, the progress is being made on certain levels.
A, you could say the artistic community has grown. B, you could say it’s created talent
which has then had it’s own evolution to do work in other institutions and so on. And
C, it has created and audience, em, that is interested in that work, and that is, er,
also, em, other people are responding to it in the in the sense of the wider academic
world, or the diaspora. I mean I think what where we need to go, now, is to find some
way of having a little power, er, in terms of being able to make the creative decisions
at the top level, em, within institutions perhaps. Er, I mean people who are already
around, the the artists who are, maybe they, it’s not something for them as their own creative
drive, because you have to be motivated by what you want to do, and you have your own
journey alongside a kind of wider political journey. But, you know, er, maybe in ten years
from now, you might get somebody who wants to, er, run an institution, at, like a National,
or, a Birmingham Rep, or, be at the RSC or whatever. I mean there have been, em, er,
people who have been involved in in in that still, but I’m just saying, you know like,
if you’re talking about where’s the progress, I do see the progress, em, I do see, I think
that we could have more, but we need to have a little bit more, power in some way. And
I think that we need to make some links with the kind of business and corporate world.
I mean I have tried, as as an individual, and I still keep trying, and I know that people
in theatre companies try but, at the end of the day, em, I think that, em, the Asian business
community, to a certain degree, does not understand how the arts community, works. Or how the
arts world works, you know. Er, they understand things like education, er, supporting poverty,
and building hospitals, and supporting charities, but most theatre companies that exist in the
UK are charities, you know. Arts, art is food for the soul, alongside food. So, you know,
it’s like trying to, to make people understand that, it has the equal level of importance.
It’s not a luxury that you can just add on when you think you’ve, alleviated poverty
in the world type of stuff, you know. So you’ve got we’ve got these, em, audiences
for live theatre. But we also have a massive, em, for TV and film. And you are in fact currently
preparing a programme for radio, on film. Would you like to talk to us about that?
Yah, I’ve been, er, involved in making a documentary, er, which will be on Radio 4. It’s called
Lights, Camera, Akshun! And it’s really about, the early days of, em, film, in the UK, and
the collaboration between Britain and, some, Indian film artists, so I’m talking about
er, scriptwriter Niranjan Pal, who who wrote the scripts of the films like, Light of Asia,
Shiraz and A Throw of Dice, which some people would have heard of, and also his collaboration
with producer Himansu Rai and later Devika Rani. These are all big personalities of the,
er, early days of film, and Niranjan Pal was also involved in theatre in the UK. Er, but
em, you know, maybe their names have been forgotten, but, they did, they were like us,
in those early days, like the artistic community of Britain today, like how we are, trying
to do things from the grass roots up. That’s what they were doing at the beginning of the
20th Century. So I find that, should be talked about and known, because, em, their contribution
to cinema, Indian cinema, World cinema, is as relevant as, the next person’s really.
So, what, apart from er from that, what do you hope to achieve, em, from, er, this this
awareness of this, this film, this body of film, em, in terms of new work, creative work.
What do you think would happen, with you actually letting us know about this. Em, giving us
a context. Well, I mean my personal argument is that,
you know, this whole idea of Bollywood or popular film actually emerged out of those
silent films of those early days. But that’s just a personal argument. I mean, we don’t
really, em, we are not able to explore that a lot in a twenty-five minute programme, so
we are telling you a little bit of the history and making that, but I believe that, if you
look at the work of director like Ashutosh Gowariker or Sanjay Lee Bhansali, you know,
you can see, er, er, echoes that have come out of this silent film era, and in the silent
film, maybe we don’t have a lot of work surviving, overall, because India itself has not been
great at preserving its past, em, so that it can be of use in the future, but, you know,
there there are these links there, and maybe it’s a unconscious, er, connection, er because,
I doubt if those directors went and saw those early films and thought they’re copying it
but in the terms, it sort of evolved in the sensibility. So so the three characters that
I’m talking about, Niranjan Pal, Himansu Rai, Devika Rani, they did leave, em, the UK in
the 30s, and they went and set up, Bombay talkies, which is one of the earliest studios
in India which did make some, er very successful films until, em, the end of the Second World
War. So some of those films, which were in Hindi, er, would be known, er, to, the Indian,
em, sort of people in the industry, say, I can think of a title called Achhut Kanya,
which is dealing with the issue of Untouchability, for example, and, you know, it began the careers
of people like Ashok Kumar and Dev Anand and so on, so, again, if you think of influences,
they would have taken their influence from the silent films, into their talkies, and
those talkies which were made in the 40s. Then the people who worked, young Raj Kapoor
used to work in that studio, so then it evolved into all the work he made, so I’m I’m saying
that there is that link in that way. And what about, em, British, em, Asian film
today. How do you see that, sitting, sitting in this, history.
I think, er, the work of the diaspora Asian community, especially with reference to the
UK, is, is where I can really sort of comment upon, is quite important, em, in the whole
artistic, er, dialogue, of em, work. Because, of, you know, being a British Asian is not
just like a racial identity or, I think it’s a sensibility and because, it’s a sensibility
that’s evolved out of the, relationship of either, growing up in the UK or living in
the UK and it’s been in opposition to the mainstream in a subtle way and it’s imbibed
influences of that. So, the films that are emerging from that, perspective, are important
because, they are, although they may be like niche stories, they are at the same time,
giving you an angle into a certain kind of sensibility. I can’t actually describe it,
it you know, er because it’s it’s not something that you can put in words, but, it’s there,
in the look of the thing, in the…in the understanding, you know, you could say Gurinder
Chadha’s, you know, Bend It Like Beckham or a Bhaji On The Beach, which is going to be
marking twenty years next year, of, you know, since it was made, em, comes to mind immediately,
but, you know, em… The the sad thing is that there hasn’t been very much work because
film is so expensive as a medium to do, that it’s very difficult for people to, be able
to, do, as much work as they would like to in that way, you know.
What about TV then. ‘Cause there there are quite a number of TV productions aren’t there?
Are there? That that, yah, recently especially, there’s
there’s… Tell me? Remind me?
Indian Doctor, for example. I actually have been enjoying Indian Doctor
Yah. I I think it’s you know, a nice, er, programme.
I’m just sorry it’s been on at, 1.15, for it, you know, because I’ve had to watch it
on iPlayer and then I missed the others because something went wrong with my iPlayer but,
but, but as a series, I I quite like, because in a way, that’s talking about the history
of the Asian experience in the UK in the 60s, and, you know, doctors are everywhere, and
they would have lived through being the only, dark person in the village type of stuff,
and having to, to make it, it in a nice way, I think it’s it’s been a good programme, but,
there are there are not many, I man I don’t know what else. I know I see Asian actors
in other, er, soaps and things like that, but, in terms of Asian led, work, on television,
it’s hardly there now. And that’s, quite bad. And here was a diversity conference in BAFTA
about a week or so ago, which talked about the representation of ethnic minorities in
television, er, in 2012, has seen to have gone done by 5% to what it was, I mean I don’t
remember the exact figures but it’s gotten less, in 2012, then what it was, in maybe
2007 and that is really quite bad. And I think the television commissioning editors and all
those people are to blame because, trying to pitch to television, is quite difficult,
and trying to convince them, that a story, er, er maybe worth telling, whether it’s a
documentary or a drama, is, you know, a big hurdle.
Of course a lot of this is being led by money, what could sell, as British, and Downton Abbey
is for example, prime example of of, of what is a Britishness that can be s pack, packaged,
and sold abroad. Em, and er hence it’s it’s it’s huge popularity.
Yah, I mean you know, Downton Abbey again, you know, I confess, I’m a fan of the series,
but if you think in the last one now, they brought in a young black actor who’s a jazz
musician. They were almost going to have a romance between him and an upper-class girl,
which has it’s basis in history because it has happened so, that’s quite a good thing
that they’ve done. But that Downton Abbey is supposed to have been set somewhere in
Yorkshire, so they’re a long way away, and, maybe at that point in time they may, wouldn’t
have been that many ethnic minorities. However, having said that, when they did their last
series, where they had the, soldiers of the World War One coming in, recuperating in the
hospital, they could have had an Asian guy but, maybe they all went to Brighton, and
we need a series based in Brighton. Also having said that, when Downton Abbey first began,
in the first series, the BBC were doing the Upstairs and Downstairs, they had redone it
as a series, sadly they didn’t continue it but, in the, re, in the new version of the
series, they also had Art Malik, who had come over as a secretary to some, dowager woman,
who’s em, husband had served in India, and in that first series, the almost have him,
having it, a relationship with the Jewish em, er, er, woman who was in the household,
for a particular reason, but they didn’t pursue that series, and now I thought that was quite
an interesting in interpretation of a period drama where, if, when they first made, they
never really had it, they weren’t, the Asians weren’t even downstairs, as opposed to upstairs,
but when they revisited the same theme, you know, twenty years or thirty years, they were
quite aware, of that. So, so, that was quite a good thing to do. But the then, they didn’t
carry on with that. Well Art Malik is quite interesting because
of course he, had a great success in The Jewel in the Crown, and then had to go abroad to
get work. And now having to come back it’s quite interesting, you saying, you know, he’s
come back and to do something… But that was two or three years ago, when
the first Downton Abbey series, but I haven’t seen him since, but he’s also involved in
theatre quite a lot, you know. Yes, so… Yah, yah. But really, oh, that’s basically
I was referring to, you know… But we are digressing worlds here, theatre,
film, TV, that’s OK hehehe… Well, because, you know, em, in our, interviews,
we’ve had had a lot of people talk about, that the impact of television, and film, and
that’s how they could have, you know, get, got bigger audiences, and I was thinking the
audience point of view really, leading them through film, TV, into theatre, and vice-versa,
that sort of thing. So I was really thinking of it in terms of audiences.
Well I think that television has sort of become quite narrow since, the whole channel space,
there’ve been thousands of it, at least British television, when there were only three or
four channels, you know, they had a mandate to do some work, that reflected, em, the population
of the UK, and now, in theory, they are all signed up to some sort of diversity or the
other pledge, you know, er, they tend to interpret it, er, in, kind of their own individual manner,
so it’s impossible to say, how it reflects now. I mean, you know, er, I would watch Downton
Abbey because it’s a series I quite enjoy on a Sunday night, for example, you know,
but, at the same time, I may not watch The Great British Bake Off or something like that
because it’s really not my cup of tea. However, having said that, er, you know, the programme
I made for radio I think would make a good documentary so, either I’m going to be brave
enough and pitch it to television and, suffer the, slings and arrows of their, rejections,
but I’m going to have to make the argument that they are as like world figures and not
just, niche, ethnic figures, for them to, you know, even be interested in it. So, so,
em, since the whole channel arena has grown bigger, the tele, the UK television sector
has slightly narrowed because, also that people make this other argument, that well you can
watch something on Indian TV or whatever, and the audiences then get segmented because,
you may prefer to watch Kaun Banega Crorepati at the as opposed to the English version of
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire because Amitabh Bachan is a better presenter than Chris Tarrant,
I don’t know, you know. So, I’m just saying that, that has led to segmentation of audiences,
but, if you are an Asian audience, and you’re a person whose based in the UK, you do want
to see yourself reflected on the television, and in film, and you also want to see yourself
in the kind of Indian channels, and, to a certain degree, it’s difficult to be on either
hehehe you know. So do you think there’s any currency in em,
er, British South Asian theatre as a genre…now. Well, yah, yah. I mean it’s a it’s a, em,
identity of a certain kind, you know. We we do have plays coming from India, like say
Lillete Dubey’s theatre company is a regular visitor to Watermans, you know, and they do
work, em, different kind, they’ve done classic, contemporary classics from India, or they’ve
done em, er pretty much er, sort of, er, new writing you could say, you know. But em, er,
the work that’s been, developed from the UK is now very different to say, em, the early
days of theatre ’cause, as I said, individual artistic journeys have evolved and newcomers
who are coming in, are moved by different priorities. Er, er, initially, maybe the motivation
was a bit more political, er, to try and address something, or to be in certain spaces that
you won’t, to nurture talent. Now, to some degree that motivation is there but more most
people are trying to do it as their own artistic creative urge of trying to tell a story, so,
but it’s, because it’s, based in a certain, framework, I do think that the term, term
is valid, but that’s like, I am using that term, you know, the person who’s doing the
theatre work may describe their work in a different way, which is valid as well.
So how does the politics of marketing work, within all these, and these changes.
Er well, in marketing, you know, the, you really have to, it’s a sell.You want people
to buy a ticket to come and see the show, and, er, my approach is to see how I can interest
them, in that show. Whether the, the angle needs to be, a light angle, if I was telling
you that, If Only Shahrukh Khan is Mamma Mia meets mother type stuff, or whether it’s a
deeper angle, because the If Only Shahrukh Khan play is looking at the lives of the,
inverted commas, the auntyjis, the much aligned women, the butts of every joke and everything
like that, you know. But, they these are older woman who’ve had a mixture of lives, they
could be sad, they could be happy, and, there is a lot of people like that in the real world,
you know, so it’s how you can relate to, to the show I guess. Or or there is also like
a celebrity sell you know, Rani Moorthy’s been in Citizen Khan, for example, you know,
you have to use everything at your disposal to encourage people to see the show, that’s
what I believe in. At the end of the day, it’s their decision, but, if they give you
some time and they listen to you then, that’s half the battle won, as it were.
And so, how how do you feel the actual, em, state of theatre is, em, you’re your personal
feeling, I mean, obviously you know, it’s different things for different people, but,
having, you know, being, in involved in it from the very very, beginning, you know, in
the 70s, how do you feel the state of theatre is today and how do you feel it has evolved.
Well, South Asian theatre really. Well, I I sort of said, I mean I think, em,
it’s…it’s em, surviving. You you know, well, the whole, er, thing about grants and money
and resources, it has been cut over the last few years, you know. Companies have been cut.
They still have to, they still have difficulties finding venues to do their work in, er, you
know, relationships have to constantly be made in that way, but, but I think it’s a
resilient form, because people are trying to carry on doing things that they want to.
Em, as I said, we just need a little bit of power now, a bit more power, in a stra, in
a strategic ways to enable it to, thrive, hehehe you know.
But yu we have em, things like, em, companies like Rifco’s, em, Arts, who are actually are
quite, populist. And and they get quite a lot of audiences and don’t have problems,
em, filling their auditorium. Em, and that is, in direct contrast to what Jatinder started
out with, you know, with Tara, and what your sister was doing to, what you are still doing
with Tamasha. So there has been this kind of change, isn’t there, and there’s a whole
lot of… Well I think it’s an evolution, you know,
like, Jatinder began, er, as an agitprop, South of theatre company, became professional,
he did the classics, it it has a, a unique theatre style that Jatinder has been very
passionate about, it has performed at the National, four shows at the National, I mean
that’s not a bad, er, thing for any theatre company to be able to say, or any artist to
be able to say, that they’ve had the opportunity to do. Em, er, and he has a building base
that he’s created, you know, er, it’s going to evolve in a theatre space. I’m saving up
to buy a brick, o in that particular building, ’cause I think it’s really important to to
have that. Er, Ta Tamasha has also had it’s own evolution, you know, They’ve done the
populist shows, like what Rifco’s doing now, er through their, as I said, Fourteen Songs,
and Strictly Dandia, or Balti Kings, you know. So their artistic journey has been separate,
because for them for the artistic director, now it’s changed, their artistic director
has changed, they will have a new one starting called Fin Kennedy whereas previously, the
partnership was with, Kristine Landon-Smith and Sudhar, so they had their own evolution
as artists about what they wanted to explore, and now the evolution is to nurture the next
generation of talent, of which they have already been very good at nurturing, if you were to,
tick them off in a list, you know, Raza Jaffrey, Praminder Nagra, er, Ayub Khan-Din, Ishy Din,
just the immediate names, the bigger names that come to mind, but there have been others
who’ve got the opportunity, to to put on their work at their Scratch Nights, and it’s quite
difficult, even as a starting out person to be able to get a venue, to be able to find
somebody who will believe in you, to be able to do a show, whether, where where it’s in
a rough state, you know. It’s really quite hard to find. So, and Rifco, is also doing
some good work. I mean I enjoyed their Britain’s Got Bhangra, you now, I think, again, it was
telling a story about a certain, em, evolution of another form of art, which is music, which
evolved in Britain, through a kind of populist manner, a musical, whe where they did not
just use traditional Bhangra songs or Bhangra songs that have been around from the 80s,
now created by Bhangra artists, they, er, created new songs, em, which were sung in
English, but I I think that was really very clever thing to do, and, you know, I applaud
Pravesh’s, em, vision in being able to do that. So, to come back to the British South
Asian nomenclature, I think it’s there in those sorts of things.
And also you’ve got now em, two, em, South Asians running two theatres, like em, at the
Bush and the Tricycle, in London. Yes, I mean that’s, again, that’s fantastic.
Somebody to have Indhu Rubasingham at the Kilburn Tricycle, em, and, Madani Younis at
the Bush. You know, it’s part of the evolution of that history. It’s allowed these people
to be creative. Not, that is not to say their work necessarily is South Asian, or whatever,
but, they have been able to grow in the theatre, world, or feel encouraged, you know, maybe
when they were twenty and starting out, because they were able to see, er, other work, that
was around. But, you know, they themselves, are, very able directors, and they have a
huge body of work behind them. But, but somebody like, say, Indhu Rubasingham, one of the first
shows she did when she, em, was made Artistic Director of the Kilburn Tricycle Theatre was
to do a show called Red Velvet, which is about, ah the life of Ira Aldridge, a Black actor
who was working in Britain in the, sort of middle of the 19th Century performing in the
West End. And although people like me may have known his name in theatre histories,
you know, have friends who carry around little posters of him, and they do small exhibitions
all over the place about him, well it’s the first time it was brought to the attention
of the wider public and people went mad for that show. You couldn’t get tickets for love
nor money. Em, it’s coming back again, er, at the tail end of this year and early next
year, and as far as I’m aware, the tickets have been sold out. So, you could say it’s
taken twenty or so years for the world at large to see the name of Ira Aldridge, who,
people like me might have heard about in the 80s. You know, so, so, I think that’s fantastic.
So if one can do work like that, in the future, you’re telling new stories or whatever. You
know, it’s, it’s, fabulous. So even though South Asian theatre, individual companies
as said, we are just like, surviving, at the grass roots kind of level, and keeping going,
the talent that it’s nurtured, the people that it’s created, individually, are just,
doing good things and that’s very positive. It’s a lovely way to end. Shall we end it
here? Yes, thank you very much.
Thank you.

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