Who is Rasa for?
Everyone who’s game for the journey.
My diverse biography, the accident of history and geography means that I was always in the minority. When you lose and gain homelands, when the ground shifts under your feet, you realise the value of stories and story-telling, to dig deeper and find what is universal.
One stark memory I have starting my new career here in the UK was something that a marketing manager of a reputable theatre said to me; that the average theatregoer at his theatre will probably turn over the page after seeing my face on the brochure without even reading what my show was about. Talk about throwing down the gauntlet.
Someone might buy a ticket to a Rasa show and expect to find difference and if for a moment they forget and lose themselves in the story and character, if for a second they think “this is my story too”, then we’ve had a good day at the office.
What inspires the creative process?
Insecurity and uncertainty. I wish I could say daffodils.
As a child I witnessed race riots in Malaysia, once friendly neighbours turned against each other. Overnight textbooks changed and Malay replaced my mother tongue Tamil. As a young person I lived under the shadow of civil war in my ancestors homeland Sri Lanka. It predisposed me to seek out apathy and ignorance.
And yet. Also quirkiness and humour and unpredictable characters
Rasa’s journey is what Peter Brook called “the culture of links”, unearthing hidden history, metaphors, relationships, mythology, folklore and whether it is poojas (rituals), curry, dance, sufi mystics, henna…Rasa’s work emphasises that all strong stories stem from a need to find what is shared rather than an investigation of difference.
How do we sell our work?
Newton’s third Law of Motion, every action has an equal and opposite reaction or as my mother would say, karma.
If we put out something that is life affirming, that throws some light on the areas of life we prefer to ignore or suppress or avoid, if the intention is to tell a powerful story, to engage in this shared experience that only theatre can conjure up, then THEY will come.
Rasa audience has been as eclectic as the shows and along the way there are people who come because they know its quality.
The biggest challenge (obstacle) is the well-meaning but blinkered marketing team in some venues. Play written by brown woman will only attract brown female audience and NO ONE ELSE SO WHY BOTHER.
Our only strategy and/or philosophy is to embrace the idea that diversity is everybody’s, black history is everybody’s history, all history is my history and I wait with bated breath for the day when I don’t have to explain myself, don’t have to conduct mini history and geography lessons and the audience transcends gender, race, difference and just come to see a good play.
How do you develop your shows?
It usually starts with a germ of an idea, an observation, a personal memory or a reaction.
I couldn’t have planned for my first show in the UK, Pooja, be a one woman show with my most personal, painful secret life of Hindu rituals be “exposed” to an alien audience. It comes from being exiled from your homeland; the seemingly ordinary rituals take on mythic meanings. But the details may be alien to the audience, but growing pains from a child to a teenager to a young woman are universal.
Some shows evolve from workshops. The idea for “Too Close To Home” came from drama workshops I did with young Muslim men in Bradford and Oldham after 9/11 and one of them said, “They’re looking at us differently”
The historical piece “Dancing within Walls” had a long developmental stage, trying out various versions of the scripts and to see where text can be replaced by dance, to allow the dance to tell the story.
“Handful Of Henna” developed through interviews with Muslim women and over 8 months they wrote letters to their daughters and vice versa.
Do you tour previous shows?
Yes, all Rasa one-woman shows are kept in the repertoire for touring, usually internationally. As it stands these are Pooja, Curry Tales, Shades of Brown and Looking For Kool.
Can you help me with my research project/essay? Can I interview you?
Rasa is keen to support any academic interest in our work because the analysis and research can also enhance our development and understanding of how the work is received.
Questions and Requests can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org