Theatre is championing South Asian voices

The UK’s longest established Asian, black and ethnically diverse-led theatre company has a new season under new artistic director Abdul Shayek, writes Alexandra Warren.

Wandsworth-based Tara Theatre, formerly known as Tara Arts, opened their season this week, which will champion South Asian artists and amplify their voices.

Mr Shayek said: “Tara Theatre will be a catalyst and agent for change within the UK theatre landscape, addressing the widespread lack of diversity and inclusivity and changing our sector.

“Our work will explore the complexities of our world through a South Asian lens, championing contemporary South Asian voices and artists, identifying new narratives, new ideas and new forms and offering a more equitable and representative space.”

The programme includes Final Farewell, an outdoor audio journey conceived and directed by Mr Shayek and written by Sudha Bhuchar.

Abdul Shayek

The piece explores how we say a proper goodbye to those lost in the pandemic, culminating in a celebratory finale at the theatre each night.

The season will also feature 2020, a collection of monologues about the challenges of the past year.

The monologues are 15 minutes each and writers include playwright Sonali Bhattacharyya and the first Indian woman to write an international opera Shreya Sen-Handley.

They explore a range of issues as far-ranging as Trump’s America to Liverpool FC winning their 19th top flight title, looking for love in lockdown and the PPE scandal for care workers.

The building opened this week with Beyond Lockdown, a project capturing students’ hopes and dreams for the future.

Mr Shayek was appointed in August 2020, beginning a bold new chapter at a moment that has led to consensus that things urgently need to change.

Tara Theatre was founded in 1977, in response to the racist murder of 17-year-old Gurdip Singh Chaggar.

More than 40 years later, the sector and wider society is still grappling with a lack of representation, equity and equality and systemic structures that have a detrimental effect on people from Asian, black and ethnically diverse backgrounds.

Mr Shayek has set out his intention for Tara Theatre to be an agent for this change, addressing the widespread lack of diversity and inclusivity in the theatre sector and beyond.

Tara Theatre plans to return to its activist roots, with politically- charged, innovative theatre on stage.



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