Tag Archives: Rob Beck

Just let go and dance…

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Hello there! Rob here again! It’s been a few months since I posted about our highly successful panel discussion at the Southbank Centre and I’ve had some time to do some thinking about an issue quite close to my heart – alternative clubbing in London.

Something has been bothering me the last few times I have ventured out into the London gay clubs. Recently, when I have been out on the town, I have often been left feeling a little saddened at what the gay scene in this city is becoming. It seems to me that many of the so-called ‘mainstream’ gay clubs have become hunting grounds for heterosexual men who come looking for ‘fag-hags’ and ‘gal-Rob (2)pals’ (two truly awful phrases in my opinion).

The result is that the clubs that were once ‘safe spaces’ for the queer community have been overtaken by heterosexual couples who, far from respecting the space as somewhere for the LGBT community to be themselves, seem to go out of their way to make queers feel uncomfortable. They do this either by acting threateningly towards anybody of the same sex who enters a metre radius of them or, more commonly in my experience, treating them as exhibits or animals in a zoo to be leered and pointed at.

I have been in a gay club before where  a stranger has come up and subjected me to personal asinine questions about my sexuality only for her to laugh about it with her equally vacuous friends. It was not how I wanted to feel in a space that “claims” to allow queers the freedom to be comfortable.

What’s worse is the clubs seem to be pandering to it. My last two nights out in London have seen me leave early with a bitter taste in my mouth. Straight male strippers gyrating on the bar, trashy drag queens whose bitching is as unfunny as it is incessant, and tragic “competitions” (I use that word very loosely) where the token gay in the audience is made to give an on-stage lap-dance to one of the straight male strippers while the (predominantly hetero) members of the audience hoot, cheer and bray like donkeys. It felt more like a gay-themed evening where every stereotype that has ever been thought of had been trooped out for the enjoyment of the crowd. To put it bluntly, I felt like a clown!

Please pardon the rant – I assure you it is going somewhere and leads me onto the main reason for my post. While I do feel like there is a major structural problem with the gay-scene in London at the moment, I don’t think the answer is to bar heterosexual people. I Heaven (2)have a lot of straight friends who often come out with me to gay clubs and they love them! I mean, why wouldn’t they?! Gay clubs rock…or at least they do when done right.

Rather than discriminating against a person based on their sexuality (something the LGBT community should know better than to do) we should aim for a space where everyone is allowed to do what they like without fear of feeling persecuted and this goes for straights and gays alike.

While I think the ideal, all-sexuality-encompassing club is a way off yet, I did frequent a place not so long ago which, I felt, was striking a better balance than some of the places I’ve described to you above. The place was Club Kali. For those of you who don’t know it then allow me to fill you in.

Kali is a South-Asian queer night that takes place once a month at The Dome in Tufnell Park. I was not expecting to find such a level of acceptance for all types that I did at Kali. Literally the whole spectrum of LGBT people were there and everyone was having a great time. It was colourful, loud, with great music and everybody was just letting go and dancing. I spied a few straight people there too. There weren’t loads but enough to have a presence and they were extremely respectful of those around them regardless of sexual orientation. I guess that would be the word I used to describe the attitude in that club – respectful – and it was so refreshing to see.

Yet at no point did I doubt that Kali was a queer night. There was a drag queen, the stunning Asifa Lahore who performed a couple of numbers; some fabulous gay anthems played that night; and even a couple of sneaky make-out sessions in the loos (not that I’d know anything about Kali Flippedthat!). So while I lament the growing trend within the London gay scene to market queerness as a brand that can be packaged and sold, Kali continues to do what it has always done – to provide a space for people to be themselves and to do whatever feels natural to them. Ok so it isn’t perfect. It’s been running for nearly 20 years and is a little tired around the edges. Plus, even in the most accepting of places, it seems there is always room for a bit of a drunken brawl and I did have to pull apart a couple who had clearly had a bit too much to drink.

Yet overall I was incredibly impressed with the work that Club Kali is doing, not just for the South Asian LGBT community, although that alone is highly commendable, but for the queer community in general who, I feel, have lost their identity a bit recently. I think as a community we need to be reminded that acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean integration. If straight people want to come and party with us then that’s great because, let’s face it we’re awesome, but we should remain true to ourselves at the same time. Let’s not sell our integrity to entertain the masses – in the clubs or anywhere for that matter.

Robert Beck is a returning guest-blogger for Safar. When he’s not writing, he’s busy chasing his dream of becoming a theatre director on the West End. However, this seems to involve drinking a lot of wine and not doing much work… He also writes for the urbanLIFECLASS blog and is training to be a re-birthing trainer. Follow him on Twitter @robertjamesbeck where he occasionally makes profound-ish comments. 

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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!!)

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) 

Smethwick blog Rob!

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Time to do it all again! After a couple of days off – which felt very strange after having spent so much time with everybody last week – we reconvened at Smethwick library yesterday, raring to go for Beneath the Surface event 2!

There was a considerably more relaxed feel in the room when I arrived. SmethwickLibraryWe’d done it once so why shouldn’t we be able to do it again? The post-Southbank event discussion highlighted an intensity in the room during the event. We understood part of this was the direct relevance of the content for most of the audience. Some of this would have been aided by the character of the room like the low ceiling and so on. And finally, probably somewhat informed by our own first show apprehension. We decided that we consciously needed to make the space warmer for the audience. We played some music on arrival and just generally tried to be more at ease…easier said than done.

The audience was slightly smaller than had booked. Apparently, through some quirk of irony, there was some postcode confusion for a few; some had been directed to The Smethwick Conservative Club rather than the library…without wishing to get political, I can think of nothing the Tories would love more than our audience arriving at their club! Still, we had a good number through the doors. Interestingly, today’s audience was made up of families in the main and there was a more even cultural mix of Asians and other communities. There were  a few supporters of the project in too – my Dad for one! So again, it was a very warm and receptive audience.

The performers are definitely gaining confidence in performing their parts. Their smooth delivery is a marvel to watch and, personally, I have always loved listening to them enunciate their lines. During the audio extracts I find myself just listening to the hard consonants and softer vowels and the range they perform with – it’s magical! SmethwickSet-Up

Then it was on to the discussion after the show. Again, it was great to hear people’s reactions to what they’d seen and how their own experiences affecting their engagement with the piece. One man was very articulate in expressing his belief that you can be both gay and Indian and that while we collectively feel that it is something we cannot talk about, actually on an individual basis we are very free and open with discussing these ideas.

Similarly, I had a very interesting discussion about how the concept of family represents the idea of unconditional support and love, whether you come from a very large family or a very small one. I come from a very small, close-knit family while some of the people I talked to come from very large, extended ones. Yet we both agreed that a family takes care of each other and supports it’s members. It was interesting how people from such different backgrounds can hold very similar beliefs and I found it fascinating to discuss and listen.

So hot off the tail of Smethwick, we are in Birmingham tonight at mac birmingham. God knows what state I’m going to arrive in – ironically, while I am a Midlander through and through I have absolutely no idea how to work the bus system in Birmingham! So this may be my last blog…that or I’ll be writing to you from Glasgow or something equally ridiculous! Until the next time – stay fabulous!

(Follow Robert Beck on Twitter @Rhubarb1992…because he’s lonely and wants more followers!) 

Rob’s Beneath the Surface London blog

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Well readers, that’s it – the event is now up and running. The hard work that has gone into the rehearsal period has paid off and we have now performed to our first audience! It’s great to get people in to watch what we’ve created and to see how they react to it. I don’t mind telling you there were some parts that they reacted to quite differently to what we had anticipated and the whole thing was a real eye opener for us all…but more on that later.

So let’s start at the beginning. Driving down with the producer, Bobby Tiwana. I met him in Wolverhampton and together we made our way down to London. Generally a good ride…apart from at the end when my perhaps questionable navigational skills sent us over Waterloo Bridge an extra time (the other way) than was necessary…oops. Never mind, we made it to Southbank Centre in one piece and met up with the rest of the team who had arrived and were ready to go.

There’s something electric in the room before a show. The nerves and the anticipation of the performers and the production team. We knew that we’d put the work in but we all just hoped that it’d pay off; that the odd line still escaping the performers would be cemented; and that we’d get a good crowd in who would be up for discussion and giving feedback.

So at 5pm the doors opened and in they came. A real mix of men, women, couples and people on their own, black, white, and Asian. I counted seventeen people, which for the first event was a great number. It was also a friendly audience, made up of several project acquaintances and supporters. Some of our interviewees from the research phase were in; as well as a few participants from Bobby and Carl’s Alchemy workshop from earlier this year. My friend from uni (if your memory needs refreshing then please refer to my very first blog) was in the audience too. A good audience to start on, not that it did much to dispel the tension from the performers who were about to present their work to a paying public and to the directors who had invested so much time and effort in the piece.

From the very first moment there were surprises. The audience reacting to one of the characters whom they did not realise was part of the show was something we’d talked about but not really come up with a plan for. In this instance, the friendliness of the audience threw Dharmesh and for a second I thought he might trip up. However, he carried on masterfully and it was interesting to see how the ripple of understanding spread throughout the room.

Similarly, reactions to the seating changes were interesting. While we had expected people to turn around to face bits of performance that were taking place behind them, the general attitude of this audience was that these moments were to be listened to and not watched. Therefore, parts of the direction may need to be reworked in order to take this into account or not. Of course, we will have to see what other audiences in other cities do as well.

I hope all this description isn’t too mind boggling, readers. There was so much going on that evening and much of it needs to be recorded. You might like to view it as me trying to capture the essence of the evening; the magic that was happening and the chemistry in the room. If bits of it don’t make sense then I implore you to come to one of the events and experience the content for yourself, then you too, will have a view on what most worked for you and what might be re-worked.

The discussions that followed the presentation of the rehearsed extracts were fascinating. I guess one thing that I will try and do too is to assess how each city and the people from it are different. I think that London, being so metropolitan and open attracts people who are not afraid to speak their minds and discuss, certainly in a venue like this. While there was maybe an initial shyness, people were quickly volunteering information on what the concepts of family and community mean to them and how they reacted to the piece and what might be done differently. I took heart that many of the LGB Asians who had come along we’re happy to share their experiences – it was truly amazing to hear what they had to say. One lady hadn’t spoken to her father in seven years and had built her own family from friends who supported her and her lifestyle in a way her family couldn’t right now. Similarly, one gentleman revealed to us that once he would create different personas for different communities and that it was both tiring and frustrating having to be so different depending on who he was with. Stories like these make the whole project seem worthwhile and made me realise that what we’re doing is creating a platform for these ideas and experiences to be shared with the world.

Perhaps one of the the most touching stories was told by a woman of African descent. She drew comparisons between her community and the south Asian community; how both are still very traditional communities and that this can often lead to prejudice. Yet she told the story about how with every generation there comes a greater level of tolerance and that the younger generations can be instrumental in dispelling the prejudices of older ones. She gave the example of her five year-old son who, when taken to a wedding some months back, asked what kind of wedding it was -“…two daddies?  Or two mummies?” And when told that is was a wedding between and man and a woman replied “HOW STRANGE!” Touching and lighthearted yet, apparently, this child’s indiscriminate tolerance had affected the views of his grandmother who herself has become much more accepting of different lifestyles. It was a story that made us all smile but also affected many of us and made us think.

So that will probably do for now, readers. London has provided us with an excellent start to the run and has already given us loads to think about. I can’t wait for the next workshop performance event on Wednesday at Smethwick Library. Now if you’ll excuse me – as you can imagine, there was much celebrating after the success of the first show and I was somewhat delicate the following day… To catch an event near you. Until the next time, stay fabulous.

Rob Beck

Rob blog four

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I have loads to tell you about yesterday – if I’m honest I didn’t think I would but we’ve had an absolutely incredible day and covered a lot of ground. I’m not going to lie to you, readers, I’m absolutely exhausted! So where should I start? Well the whole thing is beginning to take shape in such a satisfying way. I am beginning to see how the finalised product is going to look. The shape of the various sections of the script are, at one and the same time, distinct from each other and yet manage to maintain a connection that gives the whole thing a IMG_5780continuity that I think will really come across to you, the audience. We also hit our first stumbling block today. The final section just seems to include too much material and needs to be re-worked. I feel very privileged to be able to work with the directors in suggesting ways that it could be re-imagined and I am looking forward to seeing how the finished article reflects this change in direction we have taken this section in. I love it, as a theatre maker, when you hit a part of the script that doesn’t present an easy answer because it forces you to soul-search and to look for a less obvious solution. It’s just like a puzzle that needs to be solved and when it is, it’s the most incredible rush in the world!

As always, the material we discussed today could form the basis of an entire dissertation. Something that I was incredibly struck by today was how the script deals with the idea that the actors we have playing the characters might not actually be LGB and yet we are asking them to embody characters that are. Do we ask an actor playing Richard III to be a murdering psychopath? Therefore, why do we find it such a point of contention to have straight actors playing LGB characters? I found myself thinking how, when I see a piece of queer theatre, IMG_5831my first thought is often about the actor’s sexuality even though it bears no real relevance to the story they are participating in telling. There is definitely an obsession with needing to know if they are gay/straight/something in-between! I had never properly considered this and yet now, when I next go and see a piece of theatre, I will try and remember that the actors are merely the story tellers of other people’s stories and not the people telling the actual story.

This piece is definitely going to make the audience work a bit. There is a real sense of avoiding sameness and trying to make each section of the script fresh and different. For each bit there is a sense of locational energy – either from the position of the performers on stage or from the way the audience are asked to watch the piece. Some bits might be performed in a traditional, head-on manner while others might be done behind or to the right/left hand side. Similarly, some bits might be done in the middle of a circle allowing the audience to observe the reactions of fellow spectators and to reflect on this as well. In summary, the presentation of each scene is as unpredictable as the material it covers.

A really busy day all in all – I found myself emotionally spent by the end. Don’t get me wrong, I have had a brilliant day but it has been a rollercoaster. My drive back in the rain (hasn’t it got very autumnal very quickly!) used up the last of my reserves and I am looking forward to crawling into bed and reflecting on a great day. I am looking forward to telling you more about tomorrow’s antics. Until the next time – stay fabulous.

Robert Beck graduated from Manchester University with a degree in Drama and English Literature. He has worked with performers such as Dickie Beau on ‘Lost in Trans’ at Contact, Manchester and Sheila Ghelani on ‘Rat, Rose, Bird’ at Z Arts, Hulme. He also works with The Greenwich and Lewisham Young People’s Theatre. Follow him on Twitter @Rhubarb1992

Rob-blog trois

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It really is a most enjoyable experience writing these posts for you. I get home from rehearsals and plonk myself down in front of my laptop and get typing. Through them I’m getting to share with you the amazing work that is being photo (29)produced in these rehearsals and to (I’d like to hope at least) tickle your fancy into coming along to the Performance/Workshops at one of our six venues across England.

Now, as I intimated in my last blog, yesterday was about laying down the voices for the multi-media bits. Working in a recording studio is always exciting. Fantasies of doing a duet of Born this Way with Gaga re-emerged out of some adolescent part of my brain – honestly, put me in front of a microphone and all sense of professionalism seems to evaporate from me.

ANYWAY, fighting these rising urges, I accompanied the team into the room where we sat down and bashed out the parts of the script that will be played over the sound system. To my great joy I actually got to record a few lines myself – perhaps not quite my dream of recording a future chart-topper but it will do…for now. Plus it’s great to have my voice used as part of the project!! One thing that really strikes me about these recordings is just how different the performers sound. Had I not watched them record the lines, I may well think that we had hired a couple of extra actors to read these parts. A real testament to the versatility of our actors who, when all’s said and done, have the challenging task of multi-rolling characters, some of whom, twice their age through to characters that have experienced next to nothing of the world.

My theatre-senses tingled when I thought about the job the directors had to do in order to make these characters distinct and recognisable without disrupting the flow of the overall piece. Lucky they had me in the room, really, so that I could watch what they did – chip in a bit – but ultimately take it all in in order for me to retell it here to you lovely readers.

The fact that we have now done the recorded bits means that the focus can shift to the live-action bits – which are my favourites! Working with Dharmesh I was able to watch the creation of two completely contrasting characters – one a shy, fay northerner with a boyfriend he met online and the other a more mature guy who has grown tired of the superficiality of the gay scene and is looking for something more real.

Perhaps the most fascinating discussion we had was on the pros and cons of the gay scene. At one point, Dharmesh asked me why some people don’t like the gay scene and it got me thinking about how LGB culture can be a real refuge for some people but can also exclude a large proportion of the community. This made me assess my own views on how inclusive places like Soho and Canal Street really are and whether there needs to be something done to tackle exclusivity and superficiality at the heart of the gay scene. Working on this project has really made me take a good, hard look at myself and the culture I have surrounded myself with and to reflect upon what needs to be changed. IMG_5826 Just another way that Beneath the Surface is challenging ideas and encouraging discussion.

The scary thing is that this marks the end of the second day of rehearsing, when we only had five days to start with. Steve made the brilliantly terrifying point that if this was a four week process we would now be very close to the end of the second week…somewhat unsettling considering how much we still have to cover. However, rather than focus on how much more we have to do, a healthier stance is to celebrate how much we’ve got done. As well as the show we’re attracting attention online – Attitude Magazine tweeted us yesterday (a personal highlight for me as I absolutely love that magazine). So progress on all fronts …how exciting!! Until the next time – stay fabulous!

Rob Beck

Here’s another from guest blogger Rob…

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Welcome back readers! Here is the second instalment of my take on Beneath the Surface – where I shall be telling you about what’s been going on, the headway we’ve made with the project, our discoveries, and the general antics of the group as we march on towards our first show THIS SATURDAY at Southbank Centre in London.

Yesterday was the first time the whole team came together. I arrived at Newhampton Arts Centre in Wolverhampton with time to spare (despite my threats last time to complain about traffic, I have to concede that it was a fine drive in the morning). The fact it was raining did nothing to dampen my excitement about meeting the actors, the directors and the rest of the team – some of whom I had met already and some of whom were new to me. From just eight hours of working with them, I can already tell that this is a great group! There is great chemistry between our two actors, Dharmesh Patel and Rochi Rampal, and under the direction of Steve and Kate, our directors, we have made real progress already. IMG_5892

We began at the beginning with a read-through. I always feel this gives everyone a chance to hear the lines of the script out loud and to comprehend what they’re saying in a way that’s somehow so much clearer than just reading it in one’s head. Suddenly the characters in the piece are injected with a spark of life, a spark that it’s now up to the team to nurture and help grow until a set of fully formed characters stand before them. It also gives the actors, directors, and fascinated bloggers (such as the one writing now) a chance to raise questions and to discuss ideas in the piece and what they mean in a wider theatrical context. I must admit to you now that if there’s one thing this group seems very good at, it’s discussions! I do believe that reading through just under thirty pages of script took near enough two and a half hours. However, the insights that we were able to draw from these discussions were pure theatrical gold (pardon the cliché). I do not want to spoil the show for you (for of course, I expect you all to be rushing to see it at a venue near you soon) but I will tell you that a big focus of our discussions rests on how two different sets of characters identity as both LGB and South Asian – are the two concepts mutually exclusive or is there a way of navigating the line between being LGB and South Asian? For two of the younger characters it seems they are more confined by their identities, while for two of the more mature characters it seems they have found a way of establishing themselves in such a way that means being LGB isn’t outside their culture nor are they pandering to a view that they are marginal within the queer community. It was an amazing discussion and it got me thinking about how an LGB identity can sometimes absorb you to the point there is nothing else about you and where does this leave you in terms of forming an identity that is true to all parts of yourself if you come from a strong and proud cultural background – maybe you have your own views?

So after a long and in-depth read-through, we were off – beginning the process of rehearsing each section, in particular the parts of the script that make use of multi-media which are to be created tomorrow (full coverage will follow in later blogs). The energy of both performers and production team – even at  the end of the day – was impressive and reflected in the fact we were able to finish these sections with time at the end of the day for a de-brief and to plan out the rest of the week’s rehearsals. I did my bit by chipping in with my own ideas and experiences when appropriate and kept everyone’s spirits up by plying them with tea and coffee whenever there appeared to be a dip (and people say that working in theatre is glamorous!). I do not want to foreshadow future blogs too much but will implore you to stay tuned because (and here comes another cliché) … the best is yet to come! Until the next time – stay fabulous!

Robert Beck is a guest blogger for Bobby Tiwana’s project ‘Beneath the Surface’. As well as blogging he is an emerging theatre maker and director with a special interest in LGBT projects and queer narratives. Follow him on Twitter @Rhubarb1992 or read his own (brand new) blog.

Introducing guest blogger Rob Beck

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Back in December last year a conscientious final year student from a North West university got in touch who was intrigued by the project and wanted to get involved in some way. He went onto support the project by doing some media research earlier in the year. He’s an aspiring/growing theatre maker. He’s now engaged on the project as a graduate placement so that he can be immersed in all that happens in the rehearsal studio this week and the delivery for two weeks afterwards.

I’ll let him speak for himself…

Where to start? I often find beginnings the hardest. Beginning a blog; beginning the process of creating a piece of theatre; you have so many ideas and expectations and no way of knowing how they’re going to pan out. Let’s start with introductions. My name is Rob Beck (that’s me in the picture…yay!!) and this is, or will be my contribution to the project blog that will track the journey undertaken by a group of intrepid theatre makers as they devise, rehearse and showcase a piece of theatre that will explore the relatively unheard stories of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) Asians living in the UK. As a piece, it aims to shed light on these lives, the sorts of prejudices they come up against, and how their own sense of sexual, religious and cultural identity is influenced. Rob Beck

So how did I come to work on this project? Well, as a gay man living in the UK, you might say I’ve picked quite a good time to live my life. LGBT rights, The Equal Marriage Act, general equality and tolerance are better now than they have ever been. Yet I can’t help but feel what if I didn’t have the support of my family? What if I risked losing all my friends if I were to tell them how I really felt? What if the culture I had grown up in was less tolerant of my choices? I don’t actually know how well I’d cope when faced with all that pressure.

Now obviously I’m not Asian (the picture should be a pretty good indicator of that fact) but I do have some very close friends who are. My best friend growing up was an Indian Sikh. When I came out back in 2010 he was incredibly supportive but I do think it was a bit of a culture shock to him and even now my sexuality isn’t something we discuss at any great length. Another one of my very close friends is a girl who I met at university. Another Indian Sikh, she’s one of the funniest most uplifting people I know. She’s also a lesbian and proud of it too! It was having friends like her in my first term at uni that made it so easy to finally accept who I was and to come out. Yet amazingly, her sexuality is still something she has to hide at home. A couple of years ago there was a scare that her parents might try to force her into a marriage and even now she has to watch what she says online in case it somehow gets back to them. The fact that someone so strong and confident in every aspect of her life should have to hide anything was truly astounding. Having friends like these made me begin to think about the taboos that still exist in some cultures in the UK. How someone like my friend from uni copes with the constant juggling of her family life with her actual life or the reasons why I’m so lucky to still have my best friend from school when he might potentially have discarded me. This was why I got involved with Beneath the Surface and is why I will be contributing to the blog over the next few weeks as the work develops from page to stage.

As well as blogging, I’ll be helping out with the creative side of things too. I expect to have my assumptions about different cultures challenged and there will probably be parts of the show that I find quite difficult to work on. The script has been developed using real stories of LGB Asian people in the UK and therefore I am expecting some pretty poignant stuff. I’m excited, but also nervous to begin working on something that has the potential to be very powerful. The process is going to be an incredibly interesting one and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you. I should also warn you that I will be doing a lot of travelling for this show and there may be a fair amount of complaining about traffic jams and late running trains…just so you know! Anyway, that’s the introductions done. Until the next time – stay fabulous!

Rob Beck