Welcome to a packed month for South Asian theatre in the UK. There’s a lot going on and here is a diary for what to look forward to…
By Suman Bhuchar
Late Abdul Shayek and Tara Theatre
INSPIRATION and brilliance are two words that are often used to describe theatremaker Abdul Shayek – and his contribution was again most recently recognised at the UK Theatre Awards on Sunday (October 8) – when Tara Theatre of which he was the artistic director was awarded the The Digital Innovation Award. Shayek died aged 39, from natural causes last month and many in theatre world were shocked and saddened and lamented his passing – paying tribute to his energy, vision and talent.
His widow, Nicole Shayek, commenting on the award pn behalf of the theatre, said: “’I want to say thank you for honouring my beautiful husband – what a creative force, what a beautiful man. He worked tirelessly to make change in our creative industries and the communities we live in. He championed equity, diversity, and equality.”
The theatre itself in Earlsfield, South London, is currently inviting theatre creatives and anyone else to visit them and write a message on their tree in A Space to Reflect to commemorate his life and share any stories or memories you might have of Shayek.
In this picture (above) we see Hardish Krihal, a member of the customer relations staff standing outside Tara Theatre on the eve of his show, ‘Silence’ at the venue.
Link/listing: https://taratheatre.com/whats-on/a-space-to-reflect/ (selected times till October 13)
Brown Boys Swim
A SUCCESS story since it made its debut at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2022, where it won the Fringe First and BBC Popcorn Writing Award and now it’s come back for a UK tour.
Do not miss ‘Brown Boys Swim’, as two best friends, Mohsen and Kash look forward to the biggest night of their lives – Jess Denver’s pool party but there is one problem… they can’t swim.
The pair throw themselves in at the deep end, tackling cramped cubicles and cold showers as they learn how to be at one with the water.
Khan examines the pressures faced by young Muslim men about fitting in and striking out.
The playwright, who graduated from the MA screen writing course at the National Film and Television School in 2019, is also a recipient of Riz Ahmed’s Left Handed Films and Pillars Fund inaugural fellowship and an alumnus of the The North Wall’s ArtsLab programme. He is part of Soho Theatre’s Soho Six cohort of 2023/24 and is co-commissioned to write a play for Soho and Tara theatre.
Age guidance: 14+ It continues its national tour which has just ended at Soho (on Saturday, October 7 and dedicated to Shayek), and now restarts from next week (Wednesday October 18) in Scarborough, Newbury and then Manchester and finally ends in Birmingham on November 4. For all dates, times, theatres and links see listing below.
THIS is a new full length debut play by Mohamed-Zain Dada, a SOAS graduate who has worked as a cultural producer and founded the Khidr collective, a multidisciplinary arts collection championing Muslim artists.
Chunkyz Shisha Lounge is hangout for for Jihad, Rashid and Asif, but its future is under threat, having become a target for local politicians. Aspiring journalist, Jihad, wants to fight back. He wins a competition to produce his own documentary and wants to create something that gives a voice to his community and challenges the usual stereotypes – or does he end up selling out his own community.
Directed by Milli Bhatia, the show features Salman Akhtar, Omar Bynon, Arian Nik and Sanjeev Bhasker and is at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs.
Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, 50-51 Sloane Square, London SW1W 8AS
(October 5) – Saturday November 18
(October 5) – Saturday November 18
Lubna Kerr – Tickbox 2
ANOTHER Edinburgh success is the Scottish Pakistani actor and comedian, Lubna Kerr, who is bringing her autobiographical solo show, ‘Tickbox 2’ to the Pleasance Theatre, London. She also did an earlier version ‘Tickbox 1’ at the Ed fringe in 2021 and acv has seen both.
Told in Urdu and English it’s the story of a Pakistani immigrant family who end up living in a ‘four storey tenement’ in the Govan area of Glasgow during the 1960s. Her mother learns how to speak English, cook and become independent, while her dad studies for a PhD in Chemistry at Strathclyde University.
Lubna is a truculent child whose parents want her to integrate, so they sent her to the Brownies! She’s competitive and refuses to be put in a box.
We learn a lot about growing up in Scotland, all told with warmth and humour, and underscored by a beautiful 1960s Bollywood number – and of the fragility of life.
Pleasance Theatre, Carpenters Mews, North Road, London N7 9EF
October 27 and 28 https://www.pleasance.co.uk/event/tickbox-2
KALI THEATRE company present their new play, ‘Phantasmagoria’ by Deepika Arawind which had a staged reading as part of Kali’s Theatre’s International Plays Festival presented at Tara Theatre earlier this year.
Directed by Jo Tyabji the cast features Antony Bunsee, Ulrika Krishnamurti, Hussina Raja and Tania Rodrigues; the tale focuses on student activist Mehrosh who is invited to a farmhouse in a forest to take part in a debate with a ruling party adversary, Nandani.
In between the confrontational arguments, external forces such as the weather and eerie noises collide to create an atmosphere of paranoia and fear but can the women grow closer in the face of unknown foes?!
Northern Stage, Newcastle: Today (October 11) and tomorrow
Southwark Playhouse Borough, London: November 1-25
POOJA GHAI AND TANIKA GUPTA’S historical romp through the lives of Asian immigrants who lived in this sceptred isle in the 19th century, features an array of characters from ayahs to lascars, to politicians and Queen Victoria’s Munshi, Abdul Karim.
‘The Empress’ comes to the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith from the Swan Theatre in Stratford Upon-Avon for nearly this whole month (see dates below), before returning back there in November.
This epic story reveals how socially diverse the Asian presence was in 19th century Britain and takes you from the rugged gangways of Tilbury docks to the grandeur of Queen Victoria’s Palace.
(October 4)- October 28 – Lyric Theatre, Lyric Square, King Street, Hammersmith, London W6 0QL
November 1-18 – RSC, Waterside, Stratford Upon Avon, CV37 6BB
More Info: https://www.rsc.org.uk/the-empress/
A REVIVAL of Trinidadian playwright, Mustapha Matura’s play ‘Meetings’ (originally done in 1982 at Hampstead Theatre and directed by the writer). Set during the 1980s Trinidad, it explores globalisation and capitalism through the eyes of a couple, Hugh and Jean, who are tempted by an American lifestyle of fast food, fast cars, swimming pools and exposes what is missing from their lives.
From Saturday, October 14-November 11 https://orangetreetheatre.co.uk/whats-on/meetings/
Rinkoo Barpaga – Made in (India) Britain
DEAF, Punjabi and living in Birmingham and in a world “that was not made for him”, says the promo blurb for Rinkoo Barpaga’s ‘Made in Britain’. Battling both ableism and racism throughout his childhood and affecting him through his adult life, he began to grapple with the central question – Where Do I Belong? A tale of strength, vision and purpose – this is told in BSL, Spoken English and Closed Captions.
Today (Wednesday October 11) Belgrade Theatre Coventry (address above) – https://www.belgrade.co.uk/events/made-in-india-britain/
The House (main stage), University of Plymouth, Drake Circus PL4 8AA
The Father and the Assassin – ends Saturday (October 14)
INDHU RUBASINGHAM AND ANUPARMA CHANDRASEKHAR’s historical drama about Gandhi assassin, Nathuram Godse and MK Gandhi himself – exploring their philosophies of violence and non-violence through these figures. Until October 14
Olivier Stage, National Theatre,
We did get to see the ‘Mahabharata’ which played at The Barbican from October 1-7.
Beautifully narrated and constructed, this is a hugely accessible, enjoyable and well produced epic drama using stage craft narration, film, dance, live music and even what we might term, Sanskrit (solo) opera to convey the story of India or Bharat, as some like to refer to it.
About two warring clans, the Pandavas and the Kauravas, it looks like much thought and consideration has gone into a production that in its totality is over five hours long but split into two distinct segments, Part I (Karma) and II (Dharma) and with intervals in each. You don’t really feel its length and you are swept along by the drama. The production is slick and the international cast surpass themselves with some very strong individual performances too. (Sailesh Ram) We hope it returns to the UK soon. ACV rating: ***** (five out of five)
STOP PRESS – Amit Sharma has been appointed as the Artistic Director of The Kiln Theatre in Kilburn, London. The theatre’s associate director replaces Indhu Rubasingham who was artistic director and was expected to leave her role formally in early 2024. Sharma takes over from December. Rubasingham has been trailed as one of several who could replace the artistic director of the National Theatre, Rufus Norris, who is formally set to stand down in early 2025. where she Rubasingham is the current director of ‘The Father and the Assassin’ production at The National. More on Shah – https://kilntheatre.com/amit-sharma-appointed-as-artistic-director-and-ceo-of-kiln-theatre/