Tag Archives: Rochi Rampal

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!!)

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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!)

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.