October 20 2015
Neil D’Souza is a well-established actor and as his second play, as a writer, draws near the end of its first ever run, our correspondent catches up with the versatile actor-writer…
By Suman Bhuchar
IT’S A PLAY with a deep, emotional core that certainly challenges the actors and keeps audiences engaged.
D’Souza has an impressive CV as an actor – he has performed at the National Theatre (“The Man of Mode”); the Royal Shakespeare Company (“Much Ado About Nothing”) and has finished a run at the Royal Court – playing opposite Maxine Peake in the acclaimed play, “How to Hold your Breath” and was also in “Khandan” – to name a few theatre credits. “Coming Up” continues at The Watford Palace Theatre until this Saturday (October 24).
He has also been on the BBC TV soap “Eastenders” (playing lawyer Jamil Chowdhry) and the comedy, “Citizen Khan” as the Imam.
“The drive to write comes from the fact that as an actor,I am interested in stories and as a writer, I have more control in telling the stories,” he told www.asianculturevulture.com
“Coming Up” tells the story of Alan Lobo (D’Souza himself), a taciturn forty something British Asian who goes to Mumbai to connect with his heritage and also close down his call centre, before relocating it to Manila in The Philippines.
In India, he runs across his aunt, who gives him his late father, Jacob Lobo’s diary, and whilst Alan is reluctant to want to probe into the past – the show does.
The play is directed by Brigid Lamour — who is also artistic director and chief executive of the venue– and the father and son’s story takes place simultaneously on a beautifully created set by Rebecca Brower – especially the totem poles which can be perceived to be the subconscious “mangroves of the mind”.
One is set in pre-partition India and the other in contemporary India.
The title, is a take on the phrase ‘India is coming up’ that was often used in India, explained the author.
This is his second play, the first, “Small Miracle”, was performed at the Tricycle Theatre, Kilburn, London, in 2007 and centered upon a Hindu family going on pilgrimage to the shrine of the Virgin Mary in Knock, Ireland. It had a cast of five and five actors played five roles.
In “Coming Up”, D’Souza has challenged himself by exploring with the form of the piece – it jumps in time and space and in this play, a cast of five actors play 20 characters and it moves between realism and magic realism.
There is a lot going on, on stage and the show is physically very demanding for the cast (in addition to D’Souza – Ravin J. Ganatra, Clara Indrani, Goldy Notay and Mitesh Soni) as they are constantly change characters almost on a turn, and what the audience gets is a different South Asian experience on stage.
The protagonists are mostly Catholic Mangalorean Goans and there is a lot of Konkani music in the background, so is it autobiographical?
D’Souza, points out although the inspiration to begin with may have been connected to his heritage, the story takes on a life of its own.
He is of Mangalorean Goan background himself, born and raised in South London. As a family he would go on holidays every summer to India but then he and his brother stopped going while his parents continued to travel to India.
As an adult, D’Souza has travelled regularly to the sub-continent and the idea of setting the play there was to explore how Indian culture and social attitudes fared along with rising incomes and the country’s GDP and how does the British Asian (or NRI) fit into this story?
For D’Souza, after “Coming Up”, he is going to take a well-deserved break re-charging his batteries and working on some television comedy ideas.
- ‘Coming Up’ continues at the Watford Palace Theatre until Saturday (October 24), 20 Clarendon Rd, Watford, Hertfordshire WD17 1JZ