STAGE Anita and Me

Yorkshire Post - Culture & The Guide - - 16/REVIEWS - BRAD­FORD AL­HAM­BRA NICK AHAD

Re­turn­ing to our seats fol­low­ing the in­ter­val, the Asian woman I was with at Anita and Me was asked by an older lady if she ‘knew any­one in the cast’.

You might think it’s a per­fectly nor­mal and po­lite en­quiry. It’s what’s known as a mi­croag­gres­sion. The in­fer­ence in that ques­tion is ‘why else would you, an Asian woman, be here at a the­atre?’. That’s why we need plays like this.

When dra­mas that put the Bri­tish Asian ex­pe­ri­ence at their heart are put on stage like this, they have sev­eral im­por­tant ef­fects at a macro so­ci­etal level. First of all, they bring in an Asian au­di­ence – this is as racially mixed a group as I have seen at the Al­ham­bra. They also bring Asian sto­ries to the White Bri­tish the­atre go­ing pub­lic and al­low Bri­tish Asians to see their sto­ries on the stage, an all too un­usual ex­pe­ri­ence. It means the bar is set a lit­tle dif­fer­ently for a show like Anita and Me. The truth is, there were Fund­ing news: West York­shire Play­house this week an­nounced that it had been awarded £25,000 to sup­port refugee and asy­lum seek­ers over the next year. The pro­gramme of sup­port will be de­liv­ered in part­ner­ship with

City of Sanc­tu­ary, a Leeds-based char­ity which works with refugees in the re­gion, and was awarded by the Asda Foun­da­tion as part of a £380,000 grant for projects to sup­port in­no­va­tive men­tal health projects. Artis­tic di­rec­tor James Brin­ing said: “As well as pro­duc­ing the­atre, the Play­house also works be­hind the scenes pro­vid­ing a range of cre­ative, sup­port­ive ac­tiv­i­ties for peo­ple who oth­er­wise face real tech­ni­cal is­sues. Aasiya Shah, tak­ing the lead as Meena, the young Asian girl grow­ing up in The Mid­lands in the 1970s, has a lot to learn. Her in­ex­pe­ri­ence in the finer points of stage­craft – and with much of the younger cast on stage – means that dic­tion and clar­ity are to be fi­nessed.

The story, by Tanika Gupta adapted from Meera Syal’s novel, is broad brush stroke. Gupta at­tempts to in­clude fine de­tail, but the story is too big, tak­ing in Enoch Pow­ell’s Rivers of Blood, the speed of progress in­flicted on our towns and the ef­fects of im­mi­gra­tion com­bined with mass un­em­ploy­ment. Shobna Gu­lati as iso­la­tion. Our work with refugees is na­tion­ally ac­claimed, which is why we were recog­nised as the UK’s first ever The­atre of Sanc­tu­ary. This fan­tas­tic and gen­er­ous grant from the Asda

Open Day: The Stephen Joseph The­atre in Scar­bor­ough is hold­ing an open day on Sat­ur­day, April 1. Vis­i­tors will be able to see be­hind the scenes of the world-fa­mous venue on free back­stage tours. Ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude the chance to tread the boards, see a light­ing and sound demo, try on cos­tumes in the wardrobe depart­ment – and there will be a props, scripts and fur­ni­ture sale in the the­atre’s Bistro area. For more de­tails visit www.sjt.uk.com

PIC­TURE: ROBERT DAY

COM­ING OF AGE: Anita and Me, based on Meera Syal’s novel, is at Brad­ford Al­ham­bra this week.

ON SONG: A pub per­for­mance of Opera North’s whis­tle-stop Billy Budd last year.

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