Beneath the Surface is the beginning of a new theatre production inspired by British Asian lesbian, gay and bisexual lives. The motivation behind this work is to increase visibility of such lives through theatrical fictions. Whilst we exist in the real world, we’re rarely depicted in culture, and when we are it’s mostly limited to stereotypes.
This project was conceived by me, Bobby Tiwana and is also led by me as Producer. Steve Johnstone and Kate Chapman have both been working with me as Co-Directors. And Carl Miller has been working as Playwright. The complementary set of skills include: site-specific theatre production, new writing, radio production, experiential audio walks, community participatory engagement techniques and audience development.
In autumn 2012 I put a call out to interview British Asian gay and bisexual men and women. I received an overwhelming response from people, though I was only resourced to interview a dozen. We used oral history research methods and digital audio recording techniques. Interviews were conducted in the North West, West Midlands and London. The Kiss and Driving Rain describe aspects of two interviews.
After having listened to all of the recorded material the creative team discussed the key themes and stories. Carl was then tasked to write several monologues inspired by the material. Initially he worked up three female stories followed by three male. A snapshot of the key themes can be seen here.
In September 2013, armed with Carl’s script, Steve and Kate got stuck into the material with performers Dharmesh Patel and Rochi Rampal. Adam McCready, a Sound Designer was brought in to help create a couple of parents’ stories through audio. After a swift week, it resulted in 40-minutes of live and audio recorded dramatic material staged in various configurations. To complement the drama, we devised some work-shopping activity which included one-to-one and group discussions and a solitary writing exercise in response to the drama.
We then went about a 6-date tour across England. This stage was created as part of the creative development process and for audience development. We were interested in an intimate presentation with small groups of people for a more direct and personal experience; and so that we could play with form and content to try out various ways of presentation style and delivery. We toured to: Southbank Centre (London), Smethwick Library (Smethwick), Mac (Birmingham), Crucible (Sheffield), Curve Theatre (Leicester) and Pride Cafe (Newcastle).
All sorts of wonderful things came up in the different city locations, some of which I will share in due course…
In mid-October the creative team gathered in Birmingham for a post-tour analysis after having digested and reflected on the peak of activity the month before. Certain aspects worked particularly well, like: the parental characters voices; the performers acknowledging the construct that they’re in through the dissolution of the fourth wall and directly addressing the audience; varying degrees of audience activity; the sociability of the space and communal experience. During that meeting we talked quite a bit about the physical staging, the pros and cons of theatre or non-theatre spaces, and the different marketing needs depending on the context. At the end of the day we laid down parameters for further script development for Carl.
And now we have a finished draft script which landed at the end of April called: This is What I’m Gonna Say…