Tamasha celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. It was quite a landmark. The list of our award-winning productions, and the careers we have launched along the way, is starting to become an embarrassment of riches. From excoriating early shows about the Indian underclass such as Untouchable and Women of the Dust, to pioneering plays about the British diasporas such as East Is East and Balti Kings, to hit musicals like Strictly Dandia and Fourteen Songs, Two Weddings and a Funeral, to serious literary adaptations like A Fine Balance, and more latterly gritty but witty urban dramas from a new generation such as Snookered and Blood, alongside heart-wrenching verbatim plays from true life tales such as My Name is… Tamasha has been at the cutting edge of diverse new British drama for a quarter of a century.
Our alumni from Ayub Khan-Din to Raza Jaffrey have taken up their rightful places as stars of stage, screen and beyond. Tamasha finds the diverse new talent which others can’t – and launches them into the mainstream.
The latest show we are backing is an exciting new development in Tamasha’s ever-evolving portfolio of work. Split/Mixed by Ery Nzaramba represents a widening of our traditional focus on new work by and about the British South Asian diasporas, towards a championing of diversity in all its forms. An African tale about one boy’s childhood and flight from Rwanda in 1994, Split/Mixed nevertheless speaks to our company’s perennial themes of migration, community and identity – and Ery himself is a recent alumnus of our Tamasha Developing Artists programme. At a time when migration is never out of the news, Split/Mixed could not be more relevant.
I first met Ery Nzaramba when he enrolled on an Arvon playwriting course on which I was a tutor. I was immediately struck by his talent as a writer, and unsurprised to learn that he was already a trained actor of some experience. (If you’re quick you can catch him starring in Battlefield at the Young Vic until 27 February, an adaptation of the Mahabarata, and the legendary director Peter Brooks’ latest world tour.)
When Ery mentioned he was developing a show inspired by his youth in Rwanda, my interest was piqued. After helping Ery secure a one-off performance last year at Soho Theatre – including three curtain calls and a standing ovation – I was sold.
Split/Mixed is theatre in its purest form – stripped down, one person in a space, enchanting us with a tale. Tamasha does big, but we also do small. And smaller shows are a great match for Edinburgh.
Split/Mixed is an additional show to Tamasha’s main, annual national tour – that will be Mother India by Satinder Chohan, going into rehearsal at Belgrade Coventry at the end of this year for a January opening and Spring national tour. Touring is expensive and there won’t be much left over. But Split/Mixed is too good a show for us not to back – so we’re trying a new approach, to see if we can assemble a team of private sponsors around the show in order to expand our capacity to support the best diverse new work. At a special fundraising performance at the May fair Hotel on 29 January, we raised £2,600. The subsequent online crowdfunding campaign we have just launched aims to raise a further £5,000.
Taking a show to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is not cheap – but it is a good investment. As THE industry showcase for the British theatre and media sectors, new work can get noticed in a way impossible at other times of year. Producers really do ‘go shopping’ at Edinburgh, and London transfers and TV adaptation opportunities abound. It’s this that we need your help with. In this era of cuts to the arts, Tamasha’s capacity is sadly constrained. But Split/Mixed deserves a wider audience.
We estimate that doing this properly, going to Edinburgh for the whole month, and to do so professionally – without asking favours of Ery and his team – will cost in the region of £25,000. The show already has 200 supporters, who gave so generously after being moved by Ery’s story at the May fair Hotel fundraiser. But we have some way to go. Please check out our Crowdfunder page for more about Ery, Split/Mixed and Tamasha and if you can, help us get this amazing show the platform it so richly deserves.
Tamasha is proud to put its weight behind Ery’s beautiful and moving play – and we hope you will too. Please dig deep to help us give Split/Mixed the launch pad it deserves, at the world’s biggest arts festival, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, this summer.
You could be part of the next piece of Tamasha history.