V NEW PLAY
Filling the rap gap !
The National Theatre has cottoned _ on to the fact that modern Britain is not a homogenous white nation. Mark Fisher talks to Garry Lyons whose new play celebrates Asian youth culture.
lfGarry Lyons‘ suspicions are correct. his new play has reached production at just the right time. Four years in the making. Wicked. Yuur.’ is a mythic adventure that joumeys through a contemporary Britain. enlivened by the pulse of bhangra music and poisoned by the threat of racist attack. Even before the tour started. tickets for the National Theatre dates in March had started to sell out. a fact that the Bradford-based Lyons believes indicates a hunger to hear a new generation of theatrical voices. ‘Everybody is pleasantly surprised to see tickets going like hot cakes fora play by a little-known writer. with no star in it. on an apparently obscure subject,‘ he says. ‘1 do think the timing of it is spot on. Had we gone for it two years ago. we might have jumped the gun. There‘s something about it that is catching a mood and i hope it will make bods at the National Theatre think harder about this territory.’ This is all to the good. but why has it taken so long for Asian culture to be properly represented on the mainstream stage? Lyons reckons it is partly to do with the resistance of white British culture to anything from outside. especially where English isn't
Bhangranuittins on a mythical spirit world jotrmey the ﬁrst language. and partly to do with different cultural traditions. ‘Until now, Asian artists have been looking back to the kind of work that the communities have brought with them.‘ he argues. ‘If you take a group like Tara Ans. you‘ll notice that
Jatinder Verma‘s work has tended to look at
g traditional theatre styles from the subcontinent and ' find ways in which they can be made to operate in . conjunction with. say. classic Westem drama.‘
The key difference with Wicked. Yuur.’ is that it
3 addresses a specifically British experience. looking at
the young second or third-generation Asians whose
influences are as much Western as Eastern. ‘This is
not an Asian play. it’s a British play.‘ says Lyons. ‘What the play reﬂects is a current British exploration of patois fusion. which in this particular
5 play takes a very strong Punjabi British feel but also
mixes in bits of Caribbean, bits of American hip-hop,
together with various theatrical and musical styles.‘ The music is performed by the West Indian
Company. aka ex-Blancmange keyboardist Stephen
? Luscombe (the early-80s revival ain't dead yet. kids)
and percussionist Pandit [)inesh. whose other
5 projects have included producing for Apache lndian and composing the score for Masula. Aiming to
appeal to a young audience. Lyons is aware that the
- music has to be the genuine article. no watered-down
pastiche. Equally, it has to take a theatrical form, so a kind of credible hybrid has emerged. ‘There are rappers who narrate the story in what could be regarded as a chon'c way. Sometimes they‘re telling
; the story and sometimes they're commenting on it. it's a very direct style that i ﬁnd works with young
people who perhaps haven‘t been educated in the rules of the theatre. but do have a good working knowledge of popular music. It is rap. but it has other functions; as emotions deepen it becomes much more poetic.‘
Admitting that it is a shock suddenly to enjoy the
3 luxury ofthe National Theatre’s resources. Lyons
feels that it is an important step to break the vicious circle of marginalisation. ‘Most theatre like this is very badly resourced.‘ he says. ‘lt will be interesting to see how it turns out. but I suspect that we‘ll
discover that ifonly more theatre of this type could
be resourced to this extent it would be more prevalent and more popular than it is.‘ Wicked. Yaar.’ 'l‘mn Theatre. (r‘lusgmr: 23-27 Feb.
‘I’m not going to say how we do it, but 3 “you’ll believe a man can ily”,’ says , Theatre Workshop project director 3 Andy Cannon. The special effect in l - question requires a man to wake up one morning and have his nose vanish, and tor that nose subsequently to reappear disguised as a man. The work of a ievered brain you might think, and wouldn’t be tar wrong; The Nose is based on an absurd short story by 19th century Ukrainian author Nikolai Gogol, who worked on lilary ot a Madman belore wobbling over the
live hectic weeks.
The turn-out tor the latest project is impressive: 140 non-professionals have signed up, including families, children and members oi the theatre’s over-50s drama group. The cast has been set to improvise various scenes of the story, while the sheer numbers involved have also allowed two musical groups to be formed.
The problem at the vast cast is not lilting them all on stage according to Canon, but rather in getting them on and all. He’s not saying how he's going to do this either. lie does promise a physical, stylish piece, and reveals that the tape recordings at cost improvisations are lull oi tramping feet and very low words. But as to how
edge himself. ’ - the eponymous proboscis will be
The llose appealed to Cannon for the The N Over-50s bra-s ere-p prepare for The lose represented, well, who nose? (Stephen Wlbllmu " might otter as a would allow an onstage community to l Workshop and allow everyone an Chester) performance proloct; bolus M In a be created around the story. opportunity to become involved in “"004 6min"! - “I! 5‘ Perionnance prolects have been various aspects oi theatre production me am, Theatre Workshop, Potmburs of Imperial Russia - it running since the beginning or theatre in order to put a show on at the end ot Edinburgh, wu its-sat 19 Feb.
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