University of Exeter Press

Critical Essays on British South Asian Theatre

    • 288 Pages

    This volume is an edited collection of critical essays on British Asian theatre. It includes contributions from a number of researchers who have been active in the field for a substantial period of time.

    This title is complemented by British South Asian Theatres: A Documented History by the same authors, also available from University of Exeter Press.

    This volume is an edited collection of critical essays on British Asian theatre. It includes contributions from a number of researchers who have been active in the field for a substantial period of time.

    List of Illustrations                                                                      Contributors                                                                               


    1. British Asian Theatre: the Long Road to Now, and the Barriers in-between, Naseem Khan

    2. Images on Stage: a Historical Survey of South Asians in British Theatre before 1975, Colin Chambers

    3. Bridging Divides: the Emergence of Bilingual Theatre in Tower Hamlets in the 1980s, Susan Croft

    4. Experiments in Theatre from the Margins: Text, Performance and New Writers, Rukhsana Ahmad

    5. Dramatising Refuge(e)s: Rukhsana Ahmad’s Song for a Sanctuary and Tanika Gupta’s Sanctuary, Christiane Schlote

    6. Directing Storytelling Performance and Storytelling Theatre, Chris Banfield

    7. Engaging the Audience: a Comparative Analysis of Developmental Strategies in Birmingham and Leicester since the 1990s, Claire Cochrane

    8. Patriarchy and Its Discontents: the ‘Kitchen-Sink Drama’ of Tamasha Theatre Company, Victoria Sams

    9. The Marketing of Commercial and Subsidised Theatre to British Asian Audiences: Tamasha’s Fourteen Songs, Two Weddings and a Funeral (1998 and 2001) and Bombay Dreams (2002), Suman Bhuchar

    10. Mixing with the Mainstream: Transgressing the Identity of Place, Jerri Daboo

    11. Between Page and Stage: Meera Syal in British Asian Culture, Giovanna Buonanno

    12. Imagine, Indiaah ... on the British Stage: Exploring Tara’s ‘Binglish’ and Tamasha’s Brechtian Approaches, Chandrika Patel

    13.  British Asian Live Art: motiroti, Stephen Hodge

    14. On the Making of Mr Quiver, Rajni Shah              




    Graham Ley is professor of Drama and Theory at the University of Exeter and leader for the AHRC project. His work has ranged from antiquity to the present day. He has been a joint editor of the Performance Studies series from its inception; he is also a joint editor of the series Performance Practises for Palgrave.

    Dr Sarah Dadswell is the full-time Research Fellow for the AHRC project; she is a cultural historian, with expertise in the twentieth century, notably in Russian and Soviet avant-garde theatre. Dadswell is also joint editor of “Victory over the Sun” for Artist BookWorks, with Rosamund Bartlett.


    Rukhsana Ahmad co-founded Kali Theatre Company (with Rita Wolf) and led it into revenue funding. Her theatre credits include: Song for a Sanctuary, River on Fire (finalist for the Susan Smith-Blackburn International Prize) The Gate-Keeper’s Wife and Mistaken .... Radio adaptations include: Wide Sargasso Sea, Maps for Lost Lovers, Midnight’s Children and The Far Pavilions.

    Chris Banfield has worked as a drama lecturer, freelance theatre director, and teacher with an interest in Indian theatre for over twenty years. He has run a range of theatre practice workshops during that time for students in India—Allahabad, Chennai and Madurai— as well as in the UK. He is co-author, with Brian Crow, of An Introduction to Post-colonial Theatre (1996) in which he discusses the plays of Badal Sircar and Girish Karnad. He currently teaches at Ibstock Place School, Roehampton and lives in Battersea, south-west London.

    Suman Bhuchar has a long career in PR, marketing and arts production. Highlights include award winning documentaries: The Journalist & The Jihadi: The Murder of Daniel Pearl (HBO, nominated for 2 Emmys); Dead Man Talking: a forensic murder investigation by Hampshire Police (Channel 4) & Alone Together: Portrait of the Singh twins winner ‘Best film on Art’, Asolo Film Festival 2001. She writes for numerous publications and is a speaker/curator of seminars on Asian arts and Bollywood cinema. She is a regular contributor to and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

    Giovanna Buonanno lectures in English at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia. She is the author of International Actresses on the Victorian Stage (2002) and has published articles on modern and contemporary British and Italian theatre, intercultural drama, black British culture, black and Asian British women’s writing. She is currently working at a monograph on British Asian women writers.

    Colin Chambers is Professor of Drama at Kingston University. Formerly a journalist and theatre critic, he was Literary Manager of the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1981 to 1997. His books include: The Story of Unity Theatre (1989); the award-winning Peggy: the Life of Margaret Ramsay, Play Agent (1997); The Continuum Companion to Twentieth Century Theatre (editor and contributor, 2002); Inside the Royal Shakespeare Company: Creativity and the Institution (2004); Here We Stand: Politics, Performers and Performance—Paul Robeson, Isadora Duncan and Charlie Chaplin (2006); and Black and Asian Theatre in Britain: A History (2011).

    Dr Claire Cochrane is Senior Lecturer in Drama and Performance at Worcester University. As the author of Birmingham Rep: A City’s Theatre 1962–2002 (Birmingham: The Sir Barry Jackson Trust, 2003)she explored the theatre’s record in the development of British Asian and Black British actors and playwrights. Other recent essays have widened the exploration to other venues in Birmingham and at Nottingham Playhouse. Her latest book, Twentieth Century British Theatre Industry, Art and Empire,published in 2011 by Cambridge University Press incorporates the Black British experience of theatre into the landscape of UK theatre as a whole across the century.

    Susan Croft is Co-Director of the project Unfinished Histories: Recording the History of Alternative Theatre www.unfinishedhistories.comandClive Barker Research Fellow at Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance. She was Senior Curator (Contemporary Performance) at the V&A Theatre Museum from 1997–2005 where she initiated a range of projects foregrounding black and Asian materials in the collections including web resources, exhibitions and editing Black and Asian Performance at the Theatre Museum: a Users’ Guide (2001).Formerly an academic and Director of New Playwrights’ Trust, she has published widely on women playwrights, black playwrights in Britain and live art (see

    Dr Jerri Daboo is a Principal Investigator in Drama at the University of Exeter. She has worked professionally for many years as a performer and director in theatre, dance and music. Her research focuses on performance and culture, as well as embodiment and performer training. She was a member of the research team of the AHRC funded project on British Asian Theatre in the Department of Drama at the University of Exeter, and extending on contacts from this project, is now the Principle Investigator on a new AHRC funded project researching the cultural history of Southall.

    Stephen Hodge is a Senior Lecturer in Drama and a member of the Centre for Intermedia at the University of Exeter. He curates the Theatre, Dance & Live Art programme at Exeter Phoenix, and is a member of the UK’s New Theatre Architects. He is a practicing live artist and a core member of Wrights & Sites, a group of artist-researchers with a special relationship to site, city/land-scape and walking. He is co-author, with Cathy Turner, of the chapter on ‘Site’ in D. Heddon and J. Klein (eds) Histories and Practices of Live Art in the UK, Palgrave Macmillan (due 2012).

    Naseem Khan OBE has been at the forefront of cultural policy for much of her working life, having written the seminal The Arts Britain Ignores in 1976. Her involvement in Asian arts has been as both practitioner and critic. She trained in Indian classical dance and was co-director of the Academy of Indian Dance. As a writer, she has followed Asian theatre in Britain as Theatre Editor of Time Out in the 1970s, theatre critic for The Evening Standard and weekly columnist in The New Statesman in the 1980s. For six years Head of Diversity for the Arts Council, she currently works freelance.

    Dr Chandrika Patel works freelance as a researcher, writer and facilitator of arts-led projects. She has extensive experience of working in South Asian communities and has worked on three heritage-related projects. Her essay contains examples of analysis draws from her thesis, which was concerned with the study of signs used in British South Asian theatres, and the extent to which they determine British Asian work.

    Christiane Schlote teaches drama and postcolonial literatures and cultures at the University of Zurich. She has published extensively on postcolonial literatures and cityscapes, British Asian theatre, Anglophone Arab writing and Latina/o and Asian American culture. She is the author of Bridging Cultures: Latino- und asiatisch-amerikanisches Theater in New York (1997) and co-editor of New Beginnings in Twentieth-Century Theatre and Drama (2003) and Constructing Media Reality. The New Documentarism (2008). She is currently editing the manuscript for a book on transnationalism in British Asian and South Asian American drama and fiction and co-editing a study on literature from the Middle East and its diasporas as well as a volume on literary and linguistic representations of war and refugeehood.

    Rajni Shah is an artist working in performance and live art. Whether online, in a public space or in a theatre, her work aims to open up new spaces for conversation and the meeting of diverse voices. From 2006–2010 she conducted a three-year enquiry into the relationship between gift and conversation in public space called small gifts. From 2005–2012 she produced a trilogy of large-scale performances (Mr Quiver, Dinner with America and Glorious) addressing the complexities of cultural identity in the twenty-first century.