Tamasha was where it all began. With my best friend Sudha Bhuchar we set up Tamasha in 1989 to address the lack of stories about the Asian diaspora told with contemporary theatre practices on the British stage. The company from its early days had a momentum of its own as with our particular stories we were able to attract “new” Asian audiences from very specific communities to our work: the Hindu Sindhi community for House of The Sun, the Birmingham Muslim Punjabi Community for Balti Kings, The Gujarati community in Wembley, London for Strictly Dandia.
Our engagement with these groups was predicated on an intracultural approach, where we developed our comprehension and empathy through curiosity and deep engagement. To create the work, we began by immersing ourselves in each community, engaging in their daily lives and talking and interviewing people as a key part of our research. We were, therefore, seeking to understand and challenge the perceived homogeneity of Britain’s Asian community through performance.
However, in developing the material for theatrical presentation and in helping the actors capture the nuance of what we had experienced, I recognised that this was not only an issue of professional practice but also a pedagogical issue; that is, the actors arriving in our rehearsal rooms had simply not been taught to embrace their cultural context, or given permission to do so during their training. Tamasha’s work therefore expanded to include the education sector, to facilitate our performative explorations of identity.
So, in our primary investigations in several schools across the UK it was observed that many teachers felt unable to support the development of a drama pedagogy that could embrace the cultural diversity of the classroom. In our education programmes our aim therefore was to facilitate the creation of a pedagogy that would allow teachers to feel confident in playing with and through the diverse cultures of their classrooms, and to embrace cultural difference and diversity instead of seeking to ignore it.
So the privilege of running Tamasha with Sudha for twenty –three years meant that we learnt on the job: not only how to produce, fund raise and curate seasons of workbut more importantly ittaught us how to work, how to develop a practice and how to explore form and content. The consistent opportunity that was afforded to us to make work meant we were able to develop as artists. Unfortunately, so many do not have this consistent opportunity to develop and keep learning. Tamasha gave me that, and in my work I now try wherever I can to create those opportunities for others.