Retracing Our Footsteps at Royal Court Theatre – three nights of British/South Asian play readings

Retracing Our Footsteps

Retracing Our Footsteps

Bhuchar Boulevard in association with the Royal Court Theatre present Retracing Our Footsteps, three nights of play readings of classic works by British/South Asian writers, celebrating a rich canon of work that is rarely seen on stage.

Curated by Bhuchar Boulevard Associate Suman Bhuchar, this retrospective, features plays originally performed at the Royal Court Theatre, from India to the UK, with subjects exploring child prostitution, corruption, partition, vengeance, love, and integration. The readings will be presented 7.30pm Wednesday 30 May – Friday 1 June 2018 in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs.

The readings will be directed by Kristine Landon-Smith, Kully Thiarai and Iqbal Khan and followed by panel discussions.

Retracing Our Footsteps is an initiative by Bhuchar Boulevard to accelerate the development of an Asian theatre playwriting archive.

In 1912 the Royal Court Theatre hosted the first-ever play by Indian artists in England, but it was the English Stage Company under William Gaskill, that in 1967 produced the first play from India, A Touch Of Brightness by, the then upcoming writer, Partap Sharma.

Vicky Featherstone- Artistic director of The Royal Court says;
“In order to build future voices we need to understand the legacy of the past which is why we are so thrilled this project is happening here at the Court.”

Sudha Bhuchar- Artistic director Bhuchar Boulevard says.
‘As an artist of colour, I have always seen ‘who I am’ as essential to my work. I now see younger artists looking to find their voice and identity through exploration of subjects that connect them to their history and heritage. They often have no knowledge of the works that already exist. It is urgent not only for them but for wider society to have access to this invisible canon and hopefully generate new interest in these works, and for mainstream theatres to see diverse voices as essential in making British theatre vital and relevant to all”

“This is a unique opportunity for audiences to engage with our diverse stories and offer an insight into a less known British Asian theatre heritage. Revisiting these plays offers a visceral comment on contemporary life.”

With thanks to Professor Colin Chambers, Tara Arts, Phizzical Productions, V&A and University of Warwick for their support of Bhuchar Boulevard’s Asian playwriting archive project.

A Touch Of Brightness (1967)
By Partap Sharma
Directed by Kristine Landon-Smith

7.30pm, Wednesday 30 May 2018
Royal Court Theatre, Jerwood Theatre Downstairs

“What? Is it troubling you that Benarsi sold you? Child, the fact that I paid so much only shows how much I value you.

When Prema/​Rukh​mini is sold to a brothel in Mumbai, Pidku, a street urchin tries desperately to rescue her from prostitution.

Banned in India, this play exposes the underbelly of Indian society and the humanity within it.  The original cast included Saeed Jaffrey, Zora Sehgal and Roshan Seth. Later, it was adapted for Radio 4 and featured Judi Dench as Rukhmini and music by Ravi Shankar.

Banned in India, this play exposes the underbelly of Indian society and the humanity within it.  The original cast included Saeed Jaffrey, Zora Sehgal and Roshan Seth. Later, it was adapted for Radio 4 and featured Judi Dench as Rukhmini and music by Ravi Shankar.

Panel Discussion
Setting the Stage:
 Representation, Authenticity & Identity

A Touch Of Brightness was dubbed by the Indian censors as damaging to the ‘image’ of India whilst acknowledging the existence of the social reality depicted. Are today’s artists burdened by the need to be ‘authentic’ and who is the judge of ‘truthful’ representation?

Chaired by Sudha Bhuchar with panellists including Kristine Landon-Smith, Jatinder Verma, Kully Thiarai, and Satinder Chohan.

Borderline (1981)
By Hanif Kureishi
Directed by Kully Thiarai
 Thursday 31 May 2018
Royal Court Theatre, Jerwood Theatre Downstairs

“Amjad, we have made mistakes.”
“What mistakes?”
“We never realised how English she would become.”

Drawn from workshops with the Asian community of Southall in the aftermath of the Southall Riots in 1979, Borderline explores the complexity of Asian immigrant life in Britain through Haroon and Amina, two teenagers whose aspirations place them in direct conflict with their parents’ dreams for their children. The original production was by Joint Stock Theatre Company

Hanif Kureishi CBE is a prolific playwright, screen writer and novelist with credits including My Beautiful Laundrette, The Buddha of Suburbia and Le Weekend.

Panel Discussion
The ‘ubiquitous immigrant’ as inspiration?

Hanif Kureishi talked of the issues of race, immigration, integration, and the colonial legacy as ‘cracks in the wall’ through which to view landscapesIs the immigrant still a modern Everyman, representing the aspirations of millions?

Chair: Yasmin Alibhai-Brown with a panel including playwrights Hanif Kureishi, and Yasmin Whittaker-Khan.

Blood (1989)
By Harwant Bains
Directed by Iqbal Khan
7.30pm, Friday 1 June 2018
Royal Court Theatre, Jerwood Theatre Downstairs

“Why will I only ever speak in whispers? I’ll be loyal. Yes. Forever. But where will I find the dreams we had?”

Two brothers, one adopted by his uncle, journey from the Punjab to West London to carve out a new life while remaining loyal to their land and people. Blood explores how the Partition of India shaped the lives of first generation immigrants.

The original production featured the late Paul Bhattacharjee as Balbir and Meera Syal as Surinder.

Panel Discussion:

Can we talk about it?-Telling Our Story

Rooted within the world of Punjabi Sikhs, Harwant Bains talked of the desire to open a dialogue with the previous generation with their proud and bloody history. When trying to capture truths of people that you are part of, can playwrights ever feel completely free?

Chaired by Sudha Bhuchar with a panel including playwrights Harwant Bains, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti and Iqbal Khan.

Bhuchar Boulevard
in association with
Royal Court Theatre