Lime interview - Theatre
Interview with Nirjay Mahindru
EDITOR - Vernia Mengot
This month Lime got talking to the founder of the critically acclaimed Conspirators’ Kitchen Theatre about his new play GOLGOTHA.
Golgotha is a passionate and colourful new play about identity, family and destiny. Written by former professional actor and the founder of Conspirators’ Kitchen Theatre; Nirjay Mahindru, who has appeared in numerous TV and theatre shows, his new production focuses on two people who are united by blood and separated by time as they weave the tapestry of their lives.
What can the audience expect from your new play GOLGOTHA?
They can expect a play that hopefully explores the lives of what I describe as “the people in the shadows”, those on the margins of history, and they can definitely expect a lot of humour along the journey. It’s brilliantly directed by Iqbal Khan, and we’re lucky to have the actors Anjana Vasan and Raj Ghatak in the play.
What is it about?
The first half of the play explores the story of Loretta, a young Asian girl who travels as an ayah from India to England during Victorian times. Circumstances prevent her from getting back home, so we see her life and experiences in Victorian England. The second half of the play explores the journey of her great great grandson from Kenya to England, as he looks for a better life, but as with his distant relative, circumstances and fate intervene to change his life and that of his family.
You are the founder of Conspirators’ Kitchen Theatre. Tell us about the main initiatives behind the company.
The main initiative was to create a new writing company that tried to move beyond a general expectation that British Asian work was solely about “Bollywood”. Further, when one talks about “British Asian” the “British” in that phrase is usually ignored. The company was set up because we felt stories set in Manchester had just as much relevance as Mumbai, stories set in Croydon as much relevance as Calcutta.
Setting up your own independent company often proves quite challenging to many, what problems did you face in doing so?
At the time Conspirators’ Kitchen was set up, I felt there were some funded Brit Asian theatre companies that were actually doing a disservice to the community by not fully engaging with new voices. They had almost become the personal fiefdoms of individuals who were pandering to the culturally elite class rather than wanting to open theatre up for all. We wanted to show that theatre is a simple process, not terribly complicated. The biggest problem which still exists today is a view that British Asian work “needs development”, and so new companies are always regarded as “in need of development” which is very annoying when, like me, your theatrical experience goes back 24 years!
What was the response from critics?
Generally very positive. There will always be some plays that go down better than others, whether it’s Conspirators’ Kitchen or the RSC, but I think our last show THE HOT ZONE, which sold out everywhere it went and brought in new audiences validated our assumption that there was a market out there that wanted to have a wider choice of material for them to engage with.
Other than GOLGOTHA, what is next for Conspirators’ Kitchen’s creative journey?
Our next play will be set in the United States, that’s all I say at the moment!
Has writing been something you wanted to get into from a young age?
I’d always wanted to be an actor but reached a point in my life where I thought to myself “I can either moan at my lot in life at not being given juicy characters to play, or I can be positive and do something about it and create my own.” So I decided to write. My first play won a new writing competition and I thought I might have a talent for it!
Will you be re-visiting professional acting?
No. I just don’t have the time anymore. I enjoy watching others being creative with my words.
What is your involvement with InterAct Reading Service?
I’m the Chief Executive of InterAct. We are a charity that take professional actors into hospitals and read to stroke patients. We read in 21 hospitals, 50 stroke clubs and one palliative care unit.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
I’m very proud of the fact that Conspirators’ Kitchen previous show THE HOT ZONE brought in 68% of people that had never previously engaged with theatre before.
What does it take to be a successful playwright?
I don’t’ see myself as that but I would say to persevere, be true to yourself and your always write about the things that genuinely interest you rather than pandering to impress the cultural elite.
What has been the highlight of 2012 for you?
Arsenal clawing back a 13 point deficit to overtake Spurs in the Premier League! Getting some funding to produce GOLGOTHA at the Tristan Bates Theatre, and getting the wonderful Iqbal Khan on board to direct the piece, that was a real coup for Conspirators’ Kitchen.
What plans do you have for the New Year?
It would be wonderful to get GOLGOTHA on a National tour, that would be great, and I hope to produce our next play, fingers crossed!
GOLGOTHA is showing until 8 December at the Tristan Bates Theatre. www.tristanbatestheatre.co.uk
Allyson Ava Brown
A BRIMFUL OF ASHBELL