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How the V&A is marking British South Asian creativity in its 10th anniversary Performance Festival…

How the V&A is marking British South Asian creativity in its 10th anniversary Performance Festival…

Today marks the birth of the country’s most famous playwright – William Shakespeare and’ s Associate Editor Suman Bhuchar explains why it’s important to keep an archive of South Asian theatre performance, as the Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum continues its annual Performance Festival and programmes a day devoted to South Asian theatre performance…

By Suman Bhuchar

THE V&A PERFORMANCE FESTIVAL which takes place every year is centred around Shakespeare’s birthday on April 23 and transforms the South Kensington venue into a stage where actors, musicians, dancers, and designers come together with visitors to share in the delight of performance.

This year the 10th festival celebrates 100 years of the V&A’s Theatre and Performance collection, with a focus on the theme of ‘remastered’, through a series of special events around the museum, exploring concepts of remixing the past to make anew and inspire the future.

In 1924 it was the playwright, actress, archivist and collector, Gabrielle Enthoven, who donated her collection of 80,000 playbills and programmes, which began the V&A Museum’s interest in collecting performance.

Photograph by ©Douglas H Jeffery Nov 1996 Ambassadors Theatre (Upstairs) East is East Royal Court Theatre production

She had to campaign to establish a permanent theatre collection in a national institution and there will be a lecture about her life and work on Thursday (April 25). (See listing below.) Her story chimes with my personal interest in documenting British South Asian theatre history, so I have curated two events at the festival while I continue to advocate for a formal archive.

Rehearsal ‘East is East’ (1996) ©RobertWorkman

My own memorabilia and theatre ephemera is more modest but it does need a good home!

There is also the opportunity to see recordings of live theatre performances which the V&A has filmed over decades such as the screening of ‘A Number’ (2022 Production) featuring Papa Essiedu and Lennie James which acv covered.

You can also see an earlier version of that same production written by Caryl Churchill and directed by Stephen Daldry which was performed in 2002, featuring the late Michael Gambon and Daniel Craig. (See link below).

The V&A also supports Theatrevoice, an audio archive for theatre which also celebrated twenty years and there are a lot of fabulous interviews with practitioners from the theatre sector including many South Asian artists whom I interviewed including Ayub Khan-Din, Vincent Ebrahim, Goldy Notay and Indhu Rubasingham to name just a few.

Evening Conversations‘ Sudha Bhuchar
pic by Harry Elletson

I am curating two special events in the festival on Sunday (April 28) as part of my sister’s company, Bhuchar Boulevard, marking ‘Retracing our Footsteps’ initiative – advocating for a dedicated British South Asian Theatre Archive.

The events include a panel talk on ‘East is East’: Creative, Impact and is followed by the 40th performance of Sudha Bhuchar’s one-hour monologue show, ‘Evening Conversations’…listings and individual page links below… (More on this here)

Excerpts from Tamasha’s inaugural production of ‘East is East’ in 1996 will be shown as a special treat and the panellists include its director and Tamasha Theatre (which produced the original) co-founder Kristine Landon-Smith, designer Sue Mayes and original cast member Paul Bazely.

Michael Gambon and Daniel Craig in ‘A Number‘ (2002) ©V&A

Other featured guests on the panel will be director Iqbal Khan who directed the 25th anniversary production in 2021; and Associate Director, Natasha Kathi-Chandra (now also Artistic Director, Tara Theatre) will share their perspective on the play.

Lennie James and Papa Essiedu in ‘A Number‘ (2022)

A listing of all the above and information about the general programme on the link below.

The V&A is one of the country’s foremost artistic institutions with centres in other parts of London and the UK – see and is dedicated to all aspects of creativity.


Performance Festival – FREE
Sunday, (April 21)-28
Festival –

South Asian theatre performance celebration

Sunday, April 28 (Free)
1.30pm-2.30pm Talk East is East – Creativity, Impact, Legacy.

3pm-4pm ‘Evening Conversations’ written and performed by Sudha Bhuchar

Both above at Hochhauser Auditorium at the V&A.


Wednesday – April 24 (Free screening)
National Video Archive of Performance – ‘A Number’ (2002)
Lydia and Manfred Gorvy Lecture Theatre, Level 2.

National Video Archive of Performance – ‘A Number’ (2002)
same screen as above

Thursday, April 25 – 1pm-1.55pm (Free)
Lunchtime Lecture – Gabrielle Enthoven – The Theatrical Encyclopedia
The Lydia and Manfred Gorvy Lecture Theatre, Level 2

Theatre Voice page (past event – April 21)
Indhu Rubasingham – Suman Bhuchar interview

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture