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‘Sari: The whole five yards’ – the return of writer Preethi Nair

‘Sari: The whole five yards’ – the return of writer Preethi Nair

One-woman play by estbalished writer looks at a 60+ woman good at faking it but then the truth siips out and there is a comic unravelling…

By Tasha Mathur

AUTHOR, playwright and now actress, Preethi Nair is perhaps best known for the remarkable story of how her first novel, ‘Gypsy Masala’ was published.
Having been rejected by a number of publishers, an unperturbed Preethi instead created her own publishing company and PR agency to publish and promote the book.
Working under an alias, not only did Preethi successfully publish her first book but signed a three-book deal with Harper Collins. Her accomplishments did not go unnoticed as she won the Asian Woman of Achievement Award as a result of this.
Now she’s onto her next ‘adventure’ in the form of one-woman play, ‘Sari: The Whole Five Yards’, a story of unravelling truths for a 60-something woman.
We caught up with Preethi ahead of one week run which begins today (August 7) at the Tristan Bates Theatre for the Camden Fringe Festival…

Preethi Nair as Mrs Bhanu (ACV): What is ‘Sari: The Whole Five Yards about?’

Preethi Nair (PN): It’s about a 62 year old woman who tells the truth for the very first time. A lot of times people have a veneer…they pretend about how their lives are going and how they would like to present their lives. So, she’s going to her 40th wedding anniversary and is pretending what a brilliant life she has and then a little bit of the truth slips out and once the truth slips out, she starts to literally unravel.

ACV: And where did the idea come from?

PN: It came from lots of different sources but I speak to a lot of women, especially around that age, and there’s a lot of regret there. It’s very rare that they’ll sit down and tell you the whole truth. There’s a lot of ‘looking good’. I had this opportunity to speak to someone and heard their story and I thought this is the story of lots of different women universally, not just an Asian woman’s story. So I thought I’ll fictionalise it and give it a universal appeal.

ACV: Is there a message that you want to communicate to audiences?

PN: Yeah, it’s about the truth and the moment we tell ourselves the truth, life changes.
Because very often, we don’t actually tell ourselves the truth. We don’t actually stop and think. We just go through life and sometimes we don’t really want to listen to ourselves. But when we hear the truth for the first time, life has to change.

ACV: You are no stranger to overcoming challenges (for instance, trying to get your first book published). Did you face any challenges while working on this play?

PN: When we follow something that calls us – whether it’s a dream or whatever you call it – aren’t we then consistently asked to overcome our fears? I’m not an actress, I’ve never acted, not even at school. I was always the one working behind the scenes. As a writer, I don’t have exposure in terms of seeing my audience. I can hide nicely behind my novel. With this, there is nowhere to hide. You are literally on stage. People like you or they don’t and the response is very immediate. I did a very similar thing as I did with my books as I didn’t go down the normal industry route of submitting the play, getting it approved and so forth.
I just booked a theatre to test the first run. Who does that? Book a theatre and just put it on. I don’t know what possessed me to do that. I just did! And then I started rehearsing and quite literally, even before I went on, I was so sick with nerves, of fear, of being rejected. But I don’t think any journey worthwhile or worth pursuing is going to be devoid of that.

ACV: On your website, you mention you have to convince the ‘sheep (how she describes herself) that it’s a good idea to perform’. How have you managed to convince yourself and overcome that fear/self-doubt?

PN: I just pretend (laughs) I pretend my way through most things. Sometimes, you’re scared of many things in life but you just put one foot in front of the other and you go on and keep walking.

ACV: What was your first experience of performing the play like (it was staged at Tristan Bates in December and then played at a First Play Festival)?

PN: It was amazing and we had such amazing feedback. Then we were invited back to do a festival and that had such amazing feedback. And then we were invited to do these six shows. It’s grown organically. I invited people who I knew indirectly and from there, it’s been through word of mouth.

ACV: You mentioned this giving a voice to all women. Did you have an audience in mind when writing?

PN: It’s for people who don’t have a voice – women who don’t have a voice. But it’s all about expression and expressing yourself and telling the truth. That can relate to you whether you’re 18 or 80. I chose a specific age because women of that generation and that age, where do they have a platform? Where are their stories heard? You don’t hear them, do you? It’s like an invisible generation. And if they do talk about it, do you know what happens? They realise that life has to change or they realise ‘Oh my god, I’ve wasted my life’. Which I find so tragic. And it’s a scary realisation so they’d rather pretend about how well they’re doing, how well their kids are doing. So that’s why I chose that age group in particular.

‘Sari: The Whole Five Yards’ by Preethi Nair as part of Camden Fringe (until August 27) this show August 7-12 7.45pm Tristan Bates Theatre
1A Tower St, Covent Garden WC2H 9NP
Box Office: 020 3841 6611​

At time of going to press, tickets still available for Friday.

(Mrs Bhanu – the character)

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture