BBC Radio Leicester’s Asian Life Festival

Celebrating five decades of Asian life in Leicester through food, arts and culture, BBC Radio Leicester’s Asian Life Festival explored all aspects of the journey so far that have made Leicester the incredible city it is today. Part of the festival was ‘The Good Companion’, a skit written by Divya Ghelani, which I had the pleasure of directing.

In May 1974, over 500 black and Asian workers at Imperial Typewriter Co. on Leicester’s East Park Road, went on strike against unequal pay and racism on the factory floor. The so-named ‘Asian Worker’s Strike’ was unofficial and unsupported by the local TGWU who many said were in cahoots with the factory management. It is one of the first stories of resistance for Asian workers and yet it has been excluded from Leicester’s recorded history. Part of my own family were Ugandan Asian refugees so when I heard the premise for the skit, I was captivated by the story and excited to come on board, but at the same time shocked to have had no prior knowledge of the events that took place.

The Good Companion

The following is an extract from a conference paper presented by Evan Smith at the 2008 Social History Society conference in Rotterdam:

“The strikers claimed that the ‘white workers don’t suffer from the same degree of discipline as blacks do’… they were quoted in New Society as stating, ‘This discrimination is quite peculiar because it is so hard to nail. It is the racialism that you feel but cannot overtly see, that exists at Imperial’.

The representative of the TGWU for Imperial Typewriters was George Bromley, who objected to the unofficial nature of the strike and the demands being made. Bromley criticised the unofficial measures being taken by the Asian strikers and their apparent disregard for the ‘proper disputes procedure’, stating that the strikers ‘have got to learn to fit in with our ways’.”

The Good Companion was performed by local Leicester actors Marcus Langford and Krish Bharat. It followed a film that included interviews with Ugandan Asian refugees discussing the hardships of working in factories in the seventies.

The festival was an enlightening celebration of Asian history and life in Leicester and I am extremely proud to have been a part of it.

Cast: Marcus Langford & Krishan Bharat

Director: Kieran Vyas

Writer: Divya Ghelani

Producer: Kamlesh Purohit

 

More info on the Imperial Typewriter strike: https://hatfulofhistory.wordpress.com/2014/06/18/before-the-unity-of-grunwick-40-years-since-the-imperial-typewriters-strike/

 

‘King Richard’s Cyber Horse’ by Sara Bodinar

This autumn I’ll be directing ‘King Richard’s Cyber Horse’, a brand new play by award-winning writer Sara Bodinar. The play was commissioned by Urban Young Actors especially for their end of year show and centres around a virtual reality game in an apocalyptic future. Rehearsals begin in September and the production goes up on 23rd November.

This will be my fourth time directing for Urban and is undoubtedly the biggest project yet. Over the years, I’ve been blown away by the level of talent coming through the doors and the list of Urban alumni speaks for itself.

‘King Richard’s Cyber Horse’ will see historical events navigating on a futuristic landscape and, I must confess, the theme of virtual reality gets my inner child beaming with excitement. My only hope is that the budget stretches to some extensive primary research with Oculus Rift headsets! Needless to say, I can’t wait to dive into rehearsals and get started.

Director: Kieran Vyas
Writer: Sara Bodinar
Producer: Melissa Smith

King Richard's Cyber Horse Poster (small)

#WAKEUP

At the end of last year, I posted on Facebook after witnessing a young girl being sexually assaulted in Leicester. A friend commented and said why don’t I use music and film to do something about it. Six months later and I’d like to share this…Two stories about real people I’ve encountered in my life which have had a profound effect on the way I see things. One is the victim of sexual assault and the other of homophobia.

Producing this film has been a huge challenge, the second story in particular. I wanted to reach out to the musical community I was raised in as I believe it’s a community that still suffers from a lot of homophobia. Time after time again I had the figurative door slammed in my face by people not wanting to be associated with the subject matter. The comments I received were shocking and appalling, and at the same time proved the importance of the song’s message.

Thank you to the cast for their support and to SAM.G for her breathtaking vocals.

If you like it and believe in the message, please like, comment, share and ‘let everybody know if you’re bringing love’. Thank you.

 


BBC RADIO LEICESTER

Catch me on BBC Radio Leicester speaking to Jo Hayward about #WAKEUP and the stories of sexual assault and homophobia that inspired it.

LISTEN HERE (from 2:06:00)


 

A Modern Guide to Auditioning for Drama School

When I auditioned for drama school I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Retrospectively, I can identify the choices I made that led to me being accepted, however, I can’t quite remember which of those choices were intentional, instinctual, or just good luck. Since then I’ve spent many years working as an actor, director and coach, and now have experience on both sides of the panel. What I’ve realised is that there are many variables when considering an applicant for drama school (some of them you can control and others you can’t), but there are far fewer reasons for rejection. Here are some of what I consider to be the most important aspects of an audition that the panel are looking for.

Differentiation

Most applicants are aware that it’s important to choose two contrasting pieces when selecting a classical and contemporary monologue for auditions, but what does that actually mean? Selecting two different genres – a tragic Shakespeare and comedic contemporary for example – doesn’t cut it if you then play yourself in both roles. Your pieces need to demonstrate two very different characters, offering the panel two sides to you as an actor. Whether it’s a shift in power, status, temperament, energy, physicality or all of the above, the difference between your characters should go beyond the genres of the pieces and be clearly discernible. Often I see actors presenting two similar versions of themselves, regardless of what the roles demand. To quote Andrew Potter (Royal Birmingham Conservatoire acting tutor and director): ‘It’s your job to move you to the character. Don’t pull the character to you.’

Given Circumstances

In order to fully understand the context surrounding your pieces, you need to question everything. Why are you saying these words? Where have you come from? What’s just happened? Who’s in the room? What’s your relationship to the other person? Where are you? Every detail that there is to unpick, unpick it. Read the whole play and understand everything you can about what led your character to this moment, especially, the moments leading up to your monologue. A character doesn’t usually know what they’re going to say, they discover it in the moment, and every nuance is a response defined by a (fictional) lifetime of three-dimensional backstory.

Connection (Who are you speaking to?)

A monologue is still a dialogue. Acting isn’t often about you, it’s usually about the person opposite you, and that shouldn’t change just because that person happens to be imaginary. In some ways it gives you more freedom; being able to control their reactions within your imagination and respond as you will. Connecting with the other character in the scene is vital. Every line you deliver should affect them and prompt (imagined) responses, which you, in turn, must respond to. Not only does this give your performance life and purpose, but it also demonstrates the power of your imagination – one of the actor’s greatest and most necessary tools. Know who you’re speaking to and why. This doesn’t change if you’re addressing the audience, the same principle applies.

Stakes

The panel wants to be excited. I frequently work with actors who play it safe and undermine the true stakes of the piece. Often I hear, ‘I don’t want to overact’. Most of the time, in my experience, an actor that is afraid of overacting is probably not acting at all but simply reciting lines. Ask yourself, what has this character got to lose? Connect with the text and let it inspire a passionate performance. The panel will commend you for throwing yourself in. One caveat to this is to make sure you don’t wash out the detail from your speech. They want to see that your heart’s in it but playing anger from start to finish or crying through every line won’t get you very far. The specificity and variety in your performance are just as important – seek it out, consider the stakes and commit to your choices wholeheartedly.

Personality

Last but not least…How you come across in an audition does have an effect on the panel’s decision. They want to know if you’re suited to the programme, whether you’ll fit in with the other students and if you have a natural spark about you. The best advice I can give is to be yourself. Don’t try and show them what you think they’re looking for…you don’t know what they’re looking for. Despite nerves, take a deep breath and just be you.

By Kieran Vyas