Author Archives: tamashablog

‘My Journey’ by Made In India Assistant Director Corey Campbell

Ulrika Krishnamurti as Aditi in Made in India - Credit Robert Day

Ulrika Krishnamurti as Aditi in Made In India – Photo by Robert Day

My road here, from growing up in Alum Rock to becoming a Tamasha Developing Artist, has been a long one. Like many from my area it began with me misbehaving and getting into trouble with the police. The first people to offer me a chance were West Midlands Mediation, a non-profit organisation from Birmingham, they found me and asked ‘what do you want to do?’ They told me that my behaviour was down to the fact that I didn’t know how to express myself. At the time I thought it was arty-farty nonsense, but what they were offering sounded better than prison so I decided to give it a go. Initially I got into music, I was taught to rap and MC and it gave me a full sense of release. That led to me taking part in the E4 School of Performing Arts show, but they didn’t have any music slots left and the only spaces were for actors. I thought that actors were all extroverts and, as someone with serious learning difficulties and social anxieties, it wasn’t a career I’d ever considered, but I just had to go for it.

During that time I got into trouble again. It was serious, with the prospect of a long sentence, but here’s where my story gets interesting. Through working with West Midlands Mediation I had met David Vann, the person who went on to become my guardian angel. David, someone who to me was strange looking with pierced nipples and crossed legs, turned up again at this potentially disastrous point in my life. He said, ‘you carry on down this road and we can see it’s about to lead you to a lifetime inside a square box. You’ve only got one option left, you’re going to come with me and I am going to sort you out. They’re not going to hear from you again and you’re not going to hear from them again.’

I was only 17 and thought that if David wanted to be my Good Samaritan I’d just run with it. It turned out that he was the head of the part-time courses at the Birmingham School of Acting. The first thing he did was put me on a course during the summer holiday, so that I couldn’t get into trouble. He helped me relearn to read, get my GCSEs and GNVQs, he paid for the courses and then when I was 20 he also helped get me into drama school. Once again it was David who filled in the forms and put in a good word for me. When I started at drama school I was a terrible actor, the worst there. Some of the other guys had been doing it their whole lives. So I dedicated my time there to becoming the best. David’s passion had always been Shakespeare and I fell in love with it too. Particular highlights were performing Coriolanus at The Globe as part of the Sam Wanamaker Festival and an adaption of the Tempest at the Matedero in Spain.

Made In India-Rehearsal-68-SMALL

Made In India rehearsal at The Belgrade Coventry

The most memorable moment of all though came during my very last show at drama school. I was playing the part of Mack the Knife in The Threepenny Opera at The Crescent Theatre. At the very same time my Uncle had just been released from prison and he came straight to see me perform. As with all my family, he didn’t understand theatre etiquette so when the show finished he stormed up on stage, through the curtain and straight into the back stage area. We were both in bits, I was so pleased to see him and he was so proud of what I’d accomplished. It’s one of my strongest memories as it shows how what I’ve done has affected my whole family.

David died in October 2014 and it tore a massive whole in my heart. Since I was a boy I’ve been used to death, murders, cancers, all of that and it never fazed me at all. But this destroyed me. His passing made me determined to make my own theatre company, Strictly Arts. I remembered everything that David Vann had done for me and thought that I needed to be able to give the same kind of opportunity to other people. I have to be able to do that to honour the man who picked me up from nowhere and changed my whole life. He supported me through this very violent journey that I was taking, until I could finally be free.

Strictly Arts is now a springboard company at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry and I’m a creative associate there. The Belgrade took us on in 2015 and then in 2016 Tamasha agreed a co-producing partnership with The Belgrade Theatre Coventry for Made In India. As part of the TDA programme, Tamasha seek funding to offer a bursary to an emerging artist to become an Assistant Director for each of their national touring productions. The director Katie Posner and the Tamasha team were looking for an assistant and hadn’t been able to find anyone suitable. I came along, we got on really well and we successfully applied to the Regional Young Directors Scheme’s 3-month placement to become the Assistant Director. It’s another instance where my life in theatre has been a big stroke of luck, everything has just flipped into place, one thing after the other.

The full cast of Made in India - Credit Robert Day (2)

The full cast of Made In India – Photo by Robert Day

Being involved with Made In India has been very good for me. It’s an all-female cast, which isn’t something I’m used to, and that brings a very different dynamic. The characters are very strong and the actors also have strong opinions on the subject matter. My theatre company specialises in physical theatre and we therefore spend a lot of time being very boisterous, throwing each other around and testing our limits, whereas Made In India is much more text based. The read-through’s make for an interesting comparison. I’ve been an assistant a few times before but it can be a difficult role because you never know where you stand. Some directors really want you to be verbal and upfront, whereas others want you to be behind them to reinforce what they’re saying.

Working with Katie has been a great experience, especially seeing how subtle and organic she is as a director. Actors want to do what is right for their character but that doesn’t always fit with the way the director wants things to go. I’ve been in positions as an actor where a director has told me ‘listen, what you’re doing is crap, you’re going to have to change it,’ and that can destroy some people. Katie is very subtle in the way that she works actors round to seeing the process as she wants them to see it and helping them take decisions which suit the play, without ever telling them that’s the decision she wants them to make. She’s also fantastic at networking. Because I have these social anxieties, one of the things I fall down on is networking, and Katie has been talking to me about how to approach people in order to get what I need as both an artistic director and an actor.

One of the main reasons I wanted to be part of Tamasha’s Developing Artists programme was because Strictly Arts is now beginning to commission playwrights to write plays on our behalf and I’d never seen that process before. It was so helpful to be with the Made In India cast and the company, and have the writer Satinder Chohan in the room, discussing things tactfully and coming to such a great conclusion in the end.

Ulrika Krishnamurti as Aditi and Gina Isaac as Eva in Made in India - Credit Robert Day

Ulrika Krishnamurti as Aditi and Gina Isaac as Eva in Made In India – Photo by Robert Day

As part of my role I’ve been “seeing in” the shows in Edinburgh and Lancaster. It’s all about making sure the actors are comfortable and that the lighting is the way was during the opening run at The Belgrade, and making any necessary changes. Every space is different; some are naturally darker or have newer lights which are just ready to beam as the wattage is flying through them. Because the set uses a lot of screens it’s also about working with the actors on the transitions, helping them because the space has changed. At this point I’m not really interested in giving actors notes because the show is theirs and they’re doing a great job. I’m just making sure that the staging is working and the audience is getting the best possible show.

I’m also helping create a curtain raiser for the CREATE rural tour in April. It will be a 15-minute piece that people will see before the main Made In India show and I’ll be working with young people from the North East. I love working with young actors, especially those, like myself, who haven’t always known that this is the career they want. I didn’t know that this was something I actually wanted to do until I was put in the firing line to do it. One of the things that I try to standby is that I live, I learn, I progress and then I pass it on. I’ve lived, I’ve seen a whole lot of badness, then I learnt (thanks to David), I progressed in life and now it’s time to pass it on. Of course I want to keep learning too, but my whole existence is because of that one opportunity that he gave to me and if I can do the same for anybody else then I will.

Syreeta Kumar as Dr Gupta and Gina Isaac as Eva in Made in India - Credit Robert Day

Syreeta Kumar as Dr Gupta and Gina Isaac as Eva in Made In India – Photo by Robert Day

It’s great to be able to bring this show to rural places, and parts of the country that wouldn’t normally get to see it. It will be amazing to go and present this show to them and understand what they think or feel about the themes. Made In India is for anybody, woman or man, in particular anyone who has gone through surrogacy, the IVF process or has lost children; it affects people universally. The surrogacy industry in India is very unique, I didn’t know anything about it before, I had no clue that it even existed. It’s a massive industry for India, they’re making ridiculous amounts of money and many poor young women see it as their only lifeline and many are completely put through the mill. I still don’t know where I stand on it, it’s a really tough story.

I owe the RTYDS, Tamasha and The Belgrade a big thank you for all of their support. Not just for awarding the bursary but for seeing the potential in what I do and am trying to achieve. The fact that they have enabled me to work on Made In India means that they’ve seen some level of potential in me and that has given me a big lift. Everyone at Tamasha, especially Satinder and Katie, have given me such an invaluable experience. We need all the support that we can get in this life and I’m so grateful to everyone who has helped me. The biggest thank you, as always, is to David Vann.


Made In India – Interview with Designer Lydia Denno

A short interview with Made In India designer Lydia Denno about the inspiration behind the hit show’s design. By Corey Campbell:


Fundraising – it’s a Long Game

Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy has financially supported the London 21 consortium through their networks funding programme. Valerie Synmoie, Executive Director of Tamasha Theatre, and London 21 consortium lead writes about our training event. 

When I saw that the Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy programme was offering small grants for fundraising training I immediately started drafting an application for the London 21 consortium.

London 21 is a group of five diverse performing arts companies – Tamasha (where I am the Executive Director), Border Crossings, Ice&Fire, Company of Angels, and CASA Festival. The consortium was established in 2013 when we successfully applied for one of the Arts Council’s Tier 3 Catalyst programme grants. With support from Catalyst over 2 years we were able to make significant in-roads into building individual and collective capacity and expertise in fundraising for our organisations, which has had a marked impact on all of us. At the end of the grant period one of the most rewarding outcomes was that all of the companies felt we had hugely benefited from the experience of collaborating and we agreed to continue meeting as a consortium to provide a level of peer support in relation to our individual fundraising ambitions.

The Arts Fundraising opportunity came at a really good time for London 21, we had been meeting regularly during 2015 and had begun to get a much better sense of the gaps in our understanding and knowledge. A key area for all of us was gaining a better sense of how to access so-called ‘high net worth’ individuals (or HNW’s for those in the know) – seemingly the “holy grail” to small organisations such as ours. We were especially keen to find ways to connect to the growing numbers of young diverse entrepreneurs and business people, who might find our work of particular interest. Alongside that we wanted to get a better sense of innovation in fundraising techniques – beyond the cultivation events and galas, which again can be quite challenging for smaller companies which don’t have dedicated development staff.

With the Arts Fundraising grant we commissioned fundraising consultant Adam Gallacher, who came highly recommended and seemed a good fit for our needs, given his work with cultural organisations that operate outside of the ‘mainstream’ (ie. ChickenShed and Cardboard Citizens). We also opened out the training opportunity to a range of other diverse companies – to share the learning and ensure others could benefit.

There were representatives from 10 companies in the end – the five London 21 companies, plus Tara, Kali, Yellow Earth, Theatre Témon, and Paper Gang. Adam did a great job in weaving together an interactive and accessible workshop for the whole group – we covered all the key bases of effective fundraising and looked in detail at ways to reach and engage new potential donors in creative ways.

The benefit of widening out participation was that we were able to share thinking and exchange ideas with a greater number of diverse / BAME-led companies which was really useful and enlightening. The downside however was that it did lead to a slight watering down of the focus to accommodate a larger and more diverse set of needs. That aside however, it was a hugely constructive day and we all took something away from it.

Perhaps for me the single most important thing for me was in reality something I already kind of knew – that there is no magic bullet for fundraising. It’s about setting a clear and focused strategy and meticulously following that through. There aren’t many quick wins – you have to be in it for the long game. And it’s important to be realistic – for example chasing HNW’s may not in fact be the best tactic for many smaller companies – instead we might be better to focus on our core supporters and consider how to cultivate low level regular giving across a broader group, which might in the end achieve the same end goal.

Thanks again to Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy for awarding us the training grant – it has benefitted 10 diverse organisations, which is fantastic!

This blog post was originally posted on http://artsfundraising.org.uk/ on 16th August, 2016.


Help us Take Split/Mixed to Edinburgh Fringe 2016

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.


Tamasha Playwrights Intensive Play Writing Week

Tamasha Playwrights is a writer-led collective founded in October 2014 by Artistic Director Fin Kennedy and formed of 8 emerging playwrights from a diverse range of backgrounds.

Refreshed yearly, the aims of Tamasha Playwrights ranges from offering long-term career development to providing showcase opportunities to promote the writers and their work to the professional theatre industry.

This year, for the first time, both cohorts of the playwrights groups will be taking part in an intensive play writing week. Between Monday and Friday at the Tricycle Theatre, the week features quiet writing time as well as 5 leading playwrights and theatre makers as visiting tutors, alongside one-to-one advice sessions with  Dawn King and Tamasha Artistic Director Fin Kennedy. Omar Elerian of the Bush Theatre will also direct a company of actors in workshop readings of the writers’ work.

In the spirit of Tamasha Playwrights as a writer-led collective everything is scheduled by demand from the group themselves.

The schedule for the week:

Monday 8th February
10.30am-1pm  – Quiet writing time and one-to-ones with Fin Kennedy
2pm-5pm – Devising workshop with Complicite director and performer Clive Mendus

Tuesday
10am-1pm – Dawn King workshop and Q & A
2-6pm – Quiet writing time and one-to-ones with Dawn King

Wednesday
10am-1pm – Tanika Gupta workshop and Q & A
2-4.30pm – Quiet writing time and one-to-ones with Fin Kennedy
4.30-6pm – Dennis Kelly Q & A

Thursday
10am-1pm – Roy Williams workshop and Q & A
2-6pm – Quiet writing time and one-to-ones with Fin Kennedy

Friday
10am-6pm – Workshop readings of 10-15min script extracts with director Omar Elerian and 4 x actors.

For more information on Tamasha Playwrights click here.

 


Call Out for Female Residents of Tower Hamlets from Mulberry Alumni Theatre

Are you a former Mulberry student or a female resident of Tower Hamlets?

 Become an acting-member of a all-female theatre group

No previous experience required, just commitment and willingness to give it a go!

An exciting opportunity for former Mulberry School students and women residing in Tower Hamlets to come together, be creative and explore the world of theatre. Whether you would simply like to take up a hobby, grow in confidence, develop your interpersonal skills and make new friends; Mulberry ATC is a fantastic resource.

The Mulberry Alumni Theatre Company (Mulberry ATC) was established in January 2014 and is driven and led by Mulberry Alumni. The company is currently seeking new acting members to join the group and take part in staging a production.

Members will work with a Theatre Director every Tuesday (6pm to 9pm) from 1st March 2016 sessions to rehearse the production for 12 weeks for two evening performances on Thursday 26th and Friday 27th May 2016 at the Mulberry & Bigland Green Centre (MBGC) theatre.

Members will be required to attend taster workshops in February (dates and times listed below), weekly rehearsals every Tuesday from 1st March 2016 from 6pm to 9pm, including some extra evening rehearsals during the performance week.

Taster workshops:

To become an acting member Email abegum1@mulberry.towerhamlets.sch.uk and come along to a taster workshop at the Mulberry & Bigland Green Centre (MBGC) Theatre on the dates and times listed below;

  • Thurs 11th Feb* 6pm to 9pm
  • Wed 17th Feb* (half term) 6pm to 9pm
  • Wed 24th Feb* 6pm to 9pm

At Mulberry ATC, we stand for diversity, creativity and personal growth. Our members develop a range of skills and performance experiences which will enable them to bring energy to their work, develop interpersonal skills, and enhance trust in their own creative thinking. Members will;

  • Participate productively in shared group experienceParticipate productively in shared group experienceParticipate productively in shared group experienceBuild on their confidence/ public speaking skills.
  • Participate creatively and productively in a shared group experience.
  • Learn, and explore techniques used by professional actors.
  • Develop performance skills.
  • Work with professional theatre practitioners/ artists.
  • Take part in various drama workshops.
  • Have access to subsidised tickets to watch theatre productions at least 4 times a year.
  • Make new friends in a positive, dynamic and fun environment.

Rehearsal dates (Tuesdays)

Dates:              1st March – 17th May 2016 (12 weeks)

Time:               6pm to 9pm

Location:        Mulberry & Bigland Green Centre (MBGC) Theatre

  • 01st, 8th, 15th, 22nd & *29th March
  • *05th, 12th, 19th, & 26th April
  • 03rd, 10th & 17th, May

*Easter Half term (2 weeks)

Production week – from Sat 21st May 2016

  • Sat 21st May: 11am to 6pm           (full day rehearsal)
  • Tues 24th: 6pm to 9pm                (Technical rehearsal)
  • Wed 25th: 6pm to 9pm                 (Dress rehearsal)
  • Thurs 26th: 6pm to 9pm              (performance 1 to begin at 7pm)
  • Fri 27th: 6pm to 9pm                   (performance 2 to begin at 7pm)

To become a member/ for further information please contact;

Afsana Begum: Artistic Producer

Phone: 07469 790 410

Email: abegum1@mulberry.towerhamlets.sch.uk

 

Non-acting roles

We welcome members who would like to take on non-acting roles whether in costume/ set design, marketing or front of house during the performance night. Please enquire about any particular non-acting roles you would like to be involved in.

 

Location

Mulberry & Bigland Green Centre Theatre

Cannon St Rd,

London

E1 2LG

 

Map and directions to the MBGC

The Mulberry & Bigland Green Centre is located on Bigland Street, behind Mulberry School for Girls between Cannon Street Road and Watney Market. The MBGC is approximately 5 minutes’ walk from Shadwell DLR and Over-ground stations and approximately 15 minutes’ walk from Whitechapel Tube station.

Directions to MBGC from Shadwell DLR:

Exit down the stairs and turn right out of the DLR Station on to Watney Street. After approximately 50 metres turn left on to Bigland Street. Follow the road around and continue walking for about three minutes past Bigland Green Primary School until you reach the MBGC gate on your right. The centre is set back from the road.

 

Directions to MBGC from London Over ground/ Shadwell Tube:

Exit the station on to Cable Street and turn left.  Take the next left on to Watney Street, past the DLR Station and then follow the directions above.

Extra rehearsal times during Easter Half Term (to be agreed with director & group)

  • Wed 30th March
  • Wed 6th April

 

About Mulberry ATC

An all-female theatre company established in January 2014 driven and led by Mulberry Alumni. The company aims to bridge the important gap between education and the wider professional theatre industry for BAME women, representing a new generation of female theatre makers from the local community of Tower Hamlets.

Its remit is to offer a creative space at the Mulberry & Bigland Green Centre (MBGC) for BAME women in the local community of Tower Hamlets, who enjoy drama, to collaboratively make new and original performances. The group meet weekly to take part in workshops, rehearse for two annual showcase, and work with professional theatre practitioners.

Workshops with leading female Theatre Directors                                                               

Josie Rourke; Artistic Director of Donmar Warehouse     

Date:               Thursday 4th Feb 2016

Location:        Donmar Warehouse

Time:               4.45pm (prompt start)

 

Take part in a workshop with Josie Rourke from 5pm to 7pm before you watch her latest production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses at 7.30pm for only £10!

 

Phyllida Lloyd

Date, time & Location to be confirmed        

 

Vicky Featherstone; Artistic Director of The Royal Court Theatre

Date, time & Location to be confirmed

           

Melly Still

Date, time & Location to be confirmed

 

 

 

 


Fin Kennedy’s Speech at Tamasha’s 25th Birthday @ Rich Mix, 30th October 2015

Hello and welcome.

That rather sweary audio playing as you came in was some writing by none other than the legendarily sweary Ishy Din (who else) from a new site specific community project, Taxi Tales which Tamasha has been piloting with Ishy this year. Real minicab drivers performing monologues in their vehicles. The full audio is available on our website and we hope to be rolling it out bigger and better next year.

So, Tamasha theatre company is 25 years old. You may cheer.

They say at 25 you can no longer blame your parents for anything; you start to grow up. You might go out a little less, stay in a little more, take work a little more seriously, and of course start to go to lots of weddings. You might even be thinking about settling down yourself.

Kristine Landon-Smith and Sudha Bhuchar 1992

Tamasha co-founders Sudha Bhuchar and Kristine Landon-Smith.

It’s true that this year, 2015, Tamasha did take a big leap, leaving its parents Kristine and Sudha behind and embarking on a new and, so far at least, exciting new relationship… with me.

But can a theatre company’s life stages really be so easily compared to a person’s? I thought it would be fun to find out.

You could say Tamasha was born in India – 1989’s debut play is set there. Untouchable, adapted by Kris and Sudha from the novel by Mulk Raj Anand, hit hard at the treatment of India’s lowest classes. Set over one day in the life of 17-year old latrine cleaner Bakha, it laid bare his daily struggle for survival amid the hypocrisies of the high caste Hindus. Here, Tamasha is full of the rage of youth at the injustices of the world.

Untouchable

Untouchable. Actor: Sudha Bhuchar, Photographer: Jenny Potter

In 1991 Tamasha moved house, into a new block of flats where House of the Sun is set, where we meet Sindhi refugees fleeing partition. A second generation has since grown up, hypnotised by the bright lights of Bombay, rebelling against a generation desperate to hold onto the old ways. A restless, adolescent Tamasha is starting to look to the future.

House of the Sun

House of the Sun. Actor: Surendra Kochar, Photographer: Alistair Muir

In Women of the Dust in 1992 we see a more overtly politicised company exposing exploitation of illiterate village women on Delhi’s construction sites – and the male bosses who keep them oppressed. This one toured India itself – Tamasha was spreading her wings.

Women of the Dust

Women of the Dust. Actors: Shobu Kapoor, Sudha Bhuchar, Nina Wadia, Jamila Massey; Photographer: Sue Wilson

1994 and Tamasha has got married – or at least turned her attention to marriage. A Shaft of Sunlight explored the conflicts that exist in a mixed Hindu-Muslim marriage, against the explosive backdrop of the same fault line within Indian politics.

A Shaft of Sunlight

A Shaft of Sunlight. Actors: Mina Anwar, Charubala Chokshi; Photographer: Jenny Potter

1995 and Tamasha has migrated – to Birmingham, of course – to have babies, or not. Ruth Carter’s play A Yearning took as its subject a childless young bride from India, who soon discovers the community that was once nurturing becomes increasingly stifling.

A Yearning

A Yearning. Actor: Zohra Segal, Photographer: Jenny Potter

Children did finally arrive – seven of them in fact, and from a mixed marriage – in 1995’s smash hit East Is East. Nazir, Abdul, Tariq, Maneer, Saleem, Meenah, and Sajid and their parents George and Ella Khan became seared on the nation’s memory, and Tamasha the proud parent basking in the success of her riotous brood.

East is East

East is East. Actors: Chris Bisson, Jimi Mistry; Photographer: Robert Day

1997 saw a sea change in the company’s profile, with A Tainted Dawn invited to open the Edinburgh International Festival, with music by Nitin Sawhney. Tamasha was all grown-up, and revelling in her success.

1998 saw a return to her Indian homeland with the riot of colour and song that was Fourteen Songs, Two Weddings and a Funeral – winner of the Barclays Theatre Award for Best New Musical. Tamasha the young adult was celebrating life.

Fourteen Songs, Two Weddings and a Funeral

Fourteen Songs, Two Weddings and a Funeral. Actors: Meneka Das, Parminder Nagra, Pravesh Kumar, Sameena Zehra, Raza Jaffrey, Shiv Grewal; Photographers: Charlie Carter

Hard work and the slog of making a living took over in 1999, with Balti Kings, a faithful recreation of the ruthless kitchens of Birmingham’s curry houses where price wars rage and fortunes are won or lost on the back of the nation’s most popular food. This was Tamasha the businessman, surviving in the cold hard marketplace of Britain’s inner city subcultures.

Balti Kings

Balti Kings. Actors: Nabil Elouahabi, Indira Joshi, Kriss Dosanjh, Ameet Chana; Photographer: Jenny Potter

2001 took a darker turn, with Tamasha’s first affair – and a murderous one at that. Ghostdancing by Deepak Verma saw an adulterous couple commit an act that would haunt them forever.

From 2002 onwards we see an interesting new focus on comedy, Tamasha discovering her funny bone. Ryman and the Sheikh, Strictly Dandia, AlI I Want Is a British Passport and The Trouble With Asian Men took on – respectively – the absurdity of Asian TV channels, inter-communal rivalry in North London dance competitions, satirising Mohammed Al-Fayed and hysterical confessional interviews with a variety of modern Asian males.

Ryman and the Sheikh

Ryamn and the Sheikh. Actors: Rehan Sheikh, Chris Ryman; Photographer: Joel Chester Fildes

But serious political commentary was never far away and A Fine Balance in 2006 and Child of the Divide in 2007 once again took on the chaos and danger of a newly-modern India living in the shadow of partition.

Child of the Divide

A Child of the Divide. Actor: Divian Ladwa, Photographer: Nic Kirley

From 2008 onwards we thrillingly start to see some of Tamasha’s real-world children coming through – the first fruits of the company’s pioneering Tamasha Developing Artists programme. Lyrical MC put London’s school students centre stage while Sweet Cider became the debut production by Emteaz Hussain, who so brilliantly puts East Midlands young people centre stage, both then and in her follow-up this year, the extraordinary Blood. Em is a brilliant embodiement of Tamasha’s commitment to new talent and shows a company with a big heart, eager to share its success by nurturing a new generation.

Lyrical MC

Lyrical MC. Actors: Busola Aderemi, Sarah Akinsanmi, Nana Owusu-Agyare; Photographer: Robert Workman

From this point on, Tamasha becomes very much a family home, with two generations living side by side, the ‘parents’ who can produce slick and timely adaptations  like 2009’s Wuthering Heights or 2010’s The House of Bilquis Bibi, alongside energetic new offspring like Nimmi Harasgama and her one-woman show Auntie Netta’s Holiday for Asylum; the soon-to-be legendary writer of Snookered, Ishy Din, and the brilliant young actors, assistant directors and designers, all graduates of the TDA programme, taking centre stage in the most recent shows such as The Arrival, My Name Is… and Blood.

So what have we learned from putting this unusually accomplished 25-year old on the psychiatrist’s couch? If you were to meet Tamasha, out there in the foyer, what would she be like?

Well, I think you’d find a softly spoken 25-year old, modest about her achievements, and eager to put those of her children into the limelight instead. You’d find a political heart, angry at the injustices of the world, but with a sophisticated set of skills to get her points across – intellectual analysis, humour, empathy, irony, wearing her heart on her sleeve but with the quick wit of a first-rate mind – and not afraid to turn that analysis onto her own community and hold them to account.

A young woman capable of straddling cultures with the ease of those with mixed heritage; a feminist, a fighter, with no time for chauvinism, hypocrisy or the abuse of power.

She would be a lover of language, and literature, of high art and low; fascinated by people, cultures, dialects and seeking out those overlooked by everyone else.

But most of all I think you’d find someone motivated by love, and by hope. Love for the world, its people, the mad, teeming, glorious mess that is humanity – and an unshakeable hope that we can, should and will do better, if only we were to understand one another more fully, and that theatre is the crucible where we meet to do just that.

It would be an unusually complex, accomplished and wordly 25-year old, if only you could meet her. But the good news is, you can. She is here tonight. She is each and every one of you, of us, her constituent parts.

So I’d like you to join me in raising your glass, and wishing Happy Birthday to the Tamasha on your left, the Tamasha on your right, the Tamashas in front and behind you.

We are all 25 tonight.

Happy birthday, Tamasha.

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