Tag Archives: Beneath the Surface

Parents

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Mother and childNowadays people say…

A straight friend of mine said she’d be cool with her daughter, who’s currently aged two, “if she grew up to be gay or anything else,” as it makes no difference to her whatsoever. “And it shouldn’t.”

But, isn’t there always, well let’s say often, a period of adjustment?

My mother expressed surprise, disbelief; she even thought I was joking in her confusion to understand. This was followed by shock, in fact a mighty blow! Whatever future she saw when she first held that baby close to her breast shattered in a moment… Leaving an apocalyptic vacuous residue…

There was a period of grief, for the future that will never be. And then the difficult feelings stirred, when she tried to comprehend what it all meant: being gay, having a gay son, what others would think?

Often time is a healer; often, but not always. Time allows for grieving. It allows for adjustment. Time, allows for love to heal.

I think my mother has tried to understand what having a gay son means, the way she knows best.

Parents too, of gay and bisexual children, are on a journey. They learn to experience their difficult feelings. They may talk to others, or not. They may try to become informed. They try to reason in their heads. They learn to live with it. And over time, it’s kind of OK. It’s not that bad. Bobby, is still Bobby.

Here are two dramatised parents’ perspectives as monologues interspersed together. Ravinder is a father being interviewed for a project. He talks about his daughter. Pooja is in a café with her son. Use headphones for the best quality experience.

Audio monologues: written by Carl Miller; performed by Dharmesh Patel and Rochi Rampal; Directed by Steve Johnstone and Kate Chapman; recorded and engineered by Adam McCready and produced by Bobby Tiwana. Supported using public funding by Arts Council England. Co-commissioned by GEM Arts.

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Desi Download

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Ruchi Tandon interview is now available on Desi Download. It’s a succinct 03:52 in duration. The contributor does a fantastic job. You may find some other things there of interest too.

Extract from Beneath the Surface, performed by Dharmesh Patel, written by Carl Miller and directed by Steve Johnstone and Kate Chapman.

Arts Council EnglandGEM Arts

Rob’s Geordie blog, farewell!

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GatesheadMillenniumAmbitionSo here we are readers, my last blog post. I apologise if I get overly emotional at any point during this…it’s been an incredible ride and I’m quite sad that it’s over. I will, however, try to contain myself for now and tell you about our final show in Newcastle.

For the first time we were performing, not in a theatre space, but in a function room above Pride Café, a queer space within the Pink Triangle (Newcastle Queer Quarter). Not our most glamorous venue but it had a certain charm about it and, once we’d arranged the room how we wanted it, it felt ready to play host to us on this, our final night of performance.

Throughout the journey we’ve undergone, I have been telling you about the types of audiences who have come to see our show and the different reactions we have received in each city. As this is the last blog, I want to buck this trend. I will say that our audience for this show was very engaged and had lots they wanted to talk about. Particularly interesting were the conversations we had about the types of community in the North East. It does seem the Geordie culture is strong, even among the LGB members of the community and MightyTyneBridgeinterestingly, fervently among the Asian community. One man said he identified first and foremost as a Geordie and then as a British Asian.

I’d like to try and attempt to sum up the key things I have learnt from engaging with our audiences from across the country. One thing that has definitely made itself apparent is that no two groups are the same. They have differing views about the issues raised in the piece and they certainly have different ideas on how we should develop the piece going forward. Some groups thought that we had presented an accurate picture of life as a gay, British Asian while a few  thought there was too much angst in our presentation. Similarly, most liked the audio we had incorporated into the piece whilst others thought it was too much. We’ve had members of the audience come up to us after the event begging us to keep the audio. One lady in conversation with me in Leicester said that it was just too much and she wanted to see more physicality.

The different levels of theatrical engagement have also been interesting to track. While some audiences such as those in Smethwick have been very clued up on theatre and our post-show discussions focused on this, audiences in Leicester and Newcastle seemed less concerned about this and were more motivated by the content. This has given the team an excellent opportunity to explore how the themes of the show affected people and also how they might rework the show in order to fully engage with audiences through the medium of theatre.

But enough “talking shop” – the feedback we have received from our six locations, as well as the experience itself will now be poured over by the team, assimilated, and eventually used to redevelop the show from its current incarnation into the full piece.

Some of my favourite memories of the whole tour include stories of unbiased and tolerant people in the most surprising of places, stories of great courage and endurance and, in particular, a woman using her ten words to ask a character out on a date. I have learnt so much working on this show – both as a theatre-maker and as a LGB guy living in the UK. I have been touched by some incredible people but most importantly I have worked with a truly amazing team who I have grown incredibly close to. So before I sign off for the last time I would like to take a paragraph or two to thank them.

I am still very new to this business and this has been my first “proper” theatrical job since graduating this summer. Therefore, to be taken in and allowed the freedom to learn and help out has been amazing. Working on this project has really been a pleasure, from the rehearsal week in Wolverhampton where the team formed and got to know each other, right through to our six performances where we have relied on each other for love and support during the, at times, pressurised run.

Rochi and Dharmesh are two amazing actors and working with them has been great. As well as being very talented they are lovely people. It has been an honour to watch them shape their characters and to perform them with such skill. Steve and Kate have given me so much in terms of inspiration to be a director. To watch them work has been so instructive to me and a real insight into what I want to do. I don’t think they know how grateful I am to them but I guess if they’re reading this post they might get an idea. Carl’s work on the script is mind-blowing! To hear him talk about the journey he has personally undergone to form the work that we have been presenting is awe-inspiring. Also, he was a great train companion on that long and late train back from Sheffield and again on the super-long, crowded and uncomfortable train from Leicester to Newcastle (thought I’d try to get one more gripe at transport in before we finish). And then there is Bobby himself, who has kindly let me hi-jack his blog so that I can talk to you. If it wasn’t for him then I wouldn’t be here…well I would be here but I wouldn’t have worked on the project and therefore there would have been no Rob’s Blogs (and the world would have been a much poorer place!!). My message for Bobby would be – thank you for agreeing to meet me for coffee in Café Muse in Manchester all that time a go and thank you for letting me tag along and help out on what has turned out to be one of the most amazing projects I’ve had the luck to work on. AllPackedAndReadyToGo

So that is that! Three weeks and a lot of blogging later and we’re finally at the end. But the project continues and as you sit there reading this post, somewhere Carl, Bobby, Steve and Kate are cooking up ideas for how to create Beneath the Surface THE FULL SHOW!!! When, where, what, how probably still remains a mystery to them but they will get there and when they do, and they start up again with the process of bringing it to life, I hope to be back in front of my laptop, ready to make stupid jokes and tell you all about how it’s going. So don’t view this blog post as goodbye, rather farewell and see you again soon. Until the next time we meet my very dear readers – stay absolutely fabulous!

Your friend and enthusiastic blogger, Rob Beck (who might have mentioned once or twice that he has a Twitter account and that you should follow him on @Rhubarb1992. Also, if you don’t want the blogging to end then start reading Rob’s own blog at theatremad.wordpress. It’s still new and he’s neglected it a bit as he’s been so busy writing these posts but will now get back to telling you all about his fascinating life – so give it a read!!)

Leicester blog Friday, Rob

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Just a short one readers. Friday we were in Leicester. I got off the train raring to go. I actually had a little time to spare so went to go and see Leicester Cathedral and the planned Richard III monument. It’s a cause close to my heart so if you fancied signing the e-petition to make sure that his body remains in Leicester rather than being moved to York then I’d appreciate it. Exactly why it’s so important to me is a subject for another blog (in fact I think I will write a post on my own site about it) so for now just visit and watch my own space theatremad.wordpress for updates.

So enough about dead kings. To the show. Well today was an interesting one. About one-third of the audience was young – members of a youth group run by Leicester LGBT Centre. The overall audience was also probably the least theatrical so far too. Several people found some of the theatrical conventions confusing and were happy to tell us so. Indeed, our use of audio was discussed dividing the group’s opinion; several younger members felt starved of visual stimuli during this; others found the images created through voice very potent. It’s also worth bearing in mind that this stage was deliberately bare bones, to bring characters off the page and present to people.

James, the wonderfully helpful technician at Curve added some lights for us, though, I’m not sure what this added to what we’d created. It brought an added formality – a ‘professional’ hue, perhaps taking a little away from the informal context we set out with and raising or mis-aligning expectations.

So  a good show, a brilliantly mixed audience in a hot room under the lights, and a youthful perspective on feedback. An older man did talk about the importance of such events taking place in Leicester, which was seconded by younger local voices in the room. Leicester turned out, good.

I did warn you this would be short. Fear not, Newcastle blog post to come, which will be heartfelt as it’s the last. Also, while I remember, I met one of the readers today – a truly lovely lady whom I hope is reading now. It was lovely to meet her and nice to know I actually have readers. So until the next time – stay fabulous!

Rob Beck

Rupal interviews Bobby live at 14:00

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I think in families, lying is the norm… Rupal Rajani interviews me today just after 2pm on lunchtime show for BBC Radio Leicester. Catch it live. A few hours remain to get those tickets.

the day before Leicester

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Hello, it feels like it’s been a while to just chit-chat. Thursday today. A long day. It’s getting darker far earlier. I’ve now experienced driving on Rivelin Valley Road in darkness a few times. It looks enchanted, but requires concentration; more evident when tired.

Start rehearsals for another show on Monday in Morley (Leeds) but that’s another story… Will just say we’re booked into Ztudio which apparently is run by Francesca MacDuff-Varley (the blonde dancer in the final three of The Apprentice 2013). This is mildly amusing, I’m not sure why. I hope the venue is very good for the team leading to lots of creativity.

Leicester O’ Leicester, here we come. So what do I actually know about Leicester? Probably not that much. Not been there too often. It’s fairly central in the country. I performed there with a fellow graduate in 1996/7 in a piece called ‘On Becoming a Woman’. I operated the live camera and didn’t inhabit the stage. Not having been there much I can’t have too strong an opinion. Yes, it has one of the largest Asian populations in the country. I imagine has many good eateries and gold jewellers. The Divali fireworks even make the national news on the occasion. The National Space Centre is there. I think I’ll stop; not sure where I’m going with this. I need to bring it back to Beneath the Surface.

Sheffield was greaaat the other day. Two whole days of other stuff happening. All the team split and gone its own way to then reconvene again tomorrow. We meet at 4pm for a 7pm event. Just thinking now, geographically Leicester’s good for all team: me from Sheffield, Kate from Nottingham, Steve and Rochi from Birmingham, Carl, Dharmesh and Rob from London.

I have a sweet friend coming tomorrow, Fran, aka my Delhi Farishta. We met last October in a queue in the International Tourist Reservation Bureau at New Delhi Train Station. I was wanting to get a Shatabadi seated class train to Punjab as soon as. The queue snaked around the room. Upon entering the room it took a few moments to work out where the end was even though it was quite neat and orderly. Fran, came in after me, and did exactly what I did, looked from one side of the room to the other, trying to assess what’s what. She asked me or I told her, and we spoke. So we ended up chatting as we snaked around the room to the help desks up front, exchanging life stories of sorts, or she learnt mine, she was very good at asking questions enabling a story to flow. With the slightest encouragement, I can talk.

I wasn’t able to get a train. The earliest I could get was a sleeper train arriving the following morning. Fran very kindly offered for me to dump my ruck sack in her room, rest there if needed and hang out too doing some touristy things if desired. Dharmesh5It was so very open hearted of this woman I’d just met and I was very touched. We did hang out and have some fun. The moment before the altercation in Old Delhi at the Jama Masjid (Shah Jahan’s mosque in his Shajahanabad), in hindsight was a highlight. Noticing that we were foreigners a local guy tried to rip us off by charging Fran an entrance fee. Rochi1These moments can get so fraught; yet on another level it’s about survival and opportunity/enterprise/exploitation/an easy buck. Ah, yes, we also went to one of my favourite haunts in Delhi, Humayun’s Tomb (the second Mughal Emperor). Walking through the main archway, the building appears as if from nowhere, sitting serene and elegant. The char bagh design aids perspective. And then when facing any eighth aspect  you feel a satisfaction in the pit of your stomach from the symmetry  of the structure. Fran was good fun, a kindred spirit to connect with in a vast city over 10-11 hours. It will be very lovely to see her tomorrow, She’s coming with her brother.

So tomorrow night we’re in Leicester. We hope for a good crowd of men, women, gay, straight, Asian, other, just people! Book your tickets here.

 

Sheffield rocks, Rob blogs…

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Well, well, well Sheffield you do surprise us. Before I begin though, what a day it was – I felt like I’d hardly stopped moving all day. Jumped on a train in the morning to be whisked ‘oop north’, arrived with an hour to wander around Sheffield which was resplendent in the autumn sunshine, and then straight down to business at the theatre where we had to set up, chat about the previous show, and then perform. And then, sat back down on a train heading in the opposite direction, wondering where all the hours of the day went. Home beckoned, but certainly not because the show was anything less than brilliant. CrucibleDay_cropped

So, details then – our illustrious writer, Carl Miller, had some notes yesterday which resulted in a bit of a shake up on some of the scenes in the piece. I often find this is a great way to keep actors on their toes and to ensure that everything is kept crisp and fresh. In fact, I think some of the script was the best I’ve ever seen it and certainly the audience responded really well.

I should also point out that, Sheffield, you provided us with our biggest audience yet (Go Sheffield!) and what a great audience it was. I counted twenty-six heads and all of them thoroughly screwed on and engaged with the piece. A very creative audience too – some poets, some playwrights and a fair few theatre-makers. AdelphiReadyThe result being that we had some great discussions about the characters and how they made the audience feel. One gentleman responded to one of the characters by saying it was nice to hear parental voices and that, while we didn’t actually hear from her at the end, the mother with the tea cups (or, interestingly, bangles perhaps) represented a more positive angle where parents could be accepting – an interesting follow on from the discussions we were having at mac birmingham.

For the first time yesterday I was able to have a very in-depth discussion with one man who had come from a very similar family background to me. I enjoyed talking about how a small family can sometimes seem very restricting because the support we crave can only come from a select number of people and how, in many ways, we had grown our support network from the communities we inhabited so as to have a larger group of people we could reply on for love and acceptance. By the way, readers, this is not to decry the support I get from my family whom I love and am very grateful for, but sometimes a person needs a larger foundation and this can often come from one’s community of friends.

Interestingly in this instance, I am maybe guilty of forgetting  that my family has feelings – something we talked about last night and I found very interesting. We expect so much from our families and yet how much do we really give back to them? AdelphiPairDiscussionOne gentleman raised the issue that, after coming out to his mother, she refused to talk about it and, when finally pressed on the subject, responded with “why should I talk about it, nobody asks me about my life!” – a really interesting idea and one that has definitely made me stop and think about how engaged I am with my family’s troubles and issues. I would like to hope I am not all take, take, take but the conversation yesterday encouraged me to think about this.

So I think that will be enough about last night. We’re now over half-way through the run. Leicester is our next stop on Friday. And then Newcastle on Friday. I hope you’ll have a read of that post when I’ve written it. Finally made it home by 2am…good job I wasn’t working in the morning…oh wait, I did! Deep joy! Until the next time – stay fabulous!

(Robert Beck’s future projects include assisting on a commission by Transport for London to commemorate the workers that came over from the West Indies and the Caribbean in the ’40s and ’50s to work on the tubes and buses  as well as assistant directing a production of Treasure Island – both with The Greenwich and Lewisham Young People’s Theatre. He will also be working with Dickie Beau on a number of workshops in October. Follow him on Twitter @Rhubarb1992…I know he asks this in every post but do it anyway!)

4 days more – radio interview with Ruchi Tandon

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BBC Journalist Ruchi Tandon, visited us in Birmingham last week. She spoke to one of our interviewees from last autumn and me. This piece was aired on BBC Asian programmes local radio across the regions on Sunday (22nd) just gone. It is available to listen online for another 4 days here. It starts 54.45 and ends 59.20.

Paulette Edwards Interviews Bobby – 14:40 today!

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BobbyPollockPaulette Edwards of BBC Radio Sheffield just recorded an interview with me. It will be aired at 2.40pm today on her show. Listen here.

Numbers for Sheffield today are at 26. Expecting a few of my new city people and avid project supporters tonight.

Rob blogs Birmingham

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Hello again, dear readers. I am writing to you, not from Glasgow as suggested in my last post, but from the safety of my own home. It appears that, as is often the case with me, I was stressing rather too much and it turns out my journey to Midland’s Arts Centre (Mac), MacEntrancein Birmingham, though now re-branded as mac birmingham, was easier than I had anticipated.

For future reference, it is a very simple bus ride from the centre of Birmingham – although I’m sure you’ll have a much better sense of navigation than I do! The building itself is gorgeous and I was surprised at how picturesque it was!

Another guilty confession, readers, but despite professing to be a theatre-maker who has spent eighteen years in the West Midlands, I had never visited Mac before but boy do I wish I had. Clearly I have spent far too much time in the likes of Manchester and London and have neglected the amazing venues us Midlanders have on our doorsteps.

Well anyway, to the matter at hand, by which I mean Beneath the Surface event number 3!! I don’t know what it was about this performance but I really thought it was the best one yet. The performed extracts were very well done (apart from a slight mix-up on the sound levels…anybody sitting on the right-hand side of the room might be ever so slightly deaf in one ear now) and once again there were plenty of surprises in how the audience reacted to parts of the script.

MacRiverThere seemed to be a more relaxed and vocal atmosphere in the room with audience members laughing harder at the jokes in the script and exchanging glances with one another throughout. This may have been to do with the number that we had in – our largest audience yet – and once again an eclectic mix of men, women, white, Asian, straight and gay. There were also a significant number of older people which I found very interesting and made a point of talking to after the show – but more on that in a bit.

One thing I really noticed at this performance was how the audience in Birmingham was very keen to dive straight in to talking about the issues raised by the piece and to discuss these with much greater ferocity than I have thus far witnessed. Indeed, there was very little talk about the theatricality of the piece but a much greater emphasis on the themes raised in the work.

The discussion at one point intensified with one man saying how he would have preferred some lighter stories which celebrated tolerant parents as well as the stories that condemn the prejudices of others. While one woman countered this by saying the whole point of this piece was to raise awareness of those who find being gay and South Asian extremely torturous and that by including too many “happy” stories risked diluting the poignancy of the piece. Personally, I think that both are right. This work is not simply about telling horror stories of people who can’t/won’t be true to themselves and are tortured by it but should very definitely celebrate those who are open and proud and have found a way of gaining acceptance. Yet the piece should be about balance with both the lighter and darker stories being given equal airing. At the end of the day, the purpose of the piece is to tell stories about contemporary British Asian gay lives and to do that the whole spectrum of experiences must be examined

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I mentioned earlier in this post how there was a significantly larger proportion of older audience members at Mac than there had been at either London or Smethwick. I think this is a very interesting point to make and may have led to one of the most fascinating discussion points of the evening. The piece itself is made up of both younger and older voices. Indeed, the voices of the two Indian parents (if this isn’t making much sense to you then it is possibly because you haven’t seen the show and I would therefore direct you to the bookings page where there are still tickets left for two of our three remaining dates) represent the older generation who still have trouble accepting and might even find the idea of homosexuality abhorrent. Yet it is simplistic to state that the older generation is prejudiced and the younger generation tolerant. One older Asian lady that I talked to described the piece as “completely new” to her – she had seen the event listed and thought she would give it a go. Yet as our conversation continued I saw how adamantly she believed that supporting those you love and care about, no matter what, was what made you a family and I found myself thinking that her presence here was no mistake. She wanted to learn more so she could continue to be supportive to those that she loved. This was put into stark contrast when I heard about the abuse a young Asian teen had received from his peers when he came out at school. It struck me that in many cases the older generation can be instrumental in teaching the younger generation to be tolerant too. Cast your minds back to my London blog, the story of the young boy teaching his grandmother about tolerance through his unbiased innocence and you’ll find, as I have done, that every generation needs to be taught tolerance and that it is down to families and communities to do this teaching and that if we all practice and teach acceptance then suddenly the world might begin to change.

As well as these incredibly deep revelations, we also found the time to have some fun with the discussions. For the first time in the workshops so far we had people sharing the ten words they would like to impart to a character in the script. While they were all very insightful, I do remember one lady using her ten words to ask one of the characters out for a coffee! I’m smiling to myself as I write this as I can just imagine that character going on a date with one of the audience – it just seems like something they’d do! I also remember the words “love risk” being mentioned as part of someone’s ten words and I thought that was such a great phrase…I think I might have it embroidered onto a cushion!

So a slightly longer blog this time but one that I think deserved a few more words. I left Birmingham buzzing, both because of the performances which I think are getting better and better with each venue and also because of the discussion and the topics we touched upon. I hope our next event in Sheffield will be just as good! So until the next time – stay fabulous!

 Rob Beck (is guest blogger for Beneath the Surface)