Around 11am today if you tune into the Asian Network you’ll be able to hear me talking to presenter Nihal about my new play – ceteris paribus (the warning is necessary given that the last time I was due at Media City in Salford I was in my car in traffic at the precise moment I was due on the BBC Breakfast red sofa).
The play I’ll be promoting is called The Chef Show and is inspired by (steals unashamedly from) the plays Two by Jim Cartwright and Bouncers by John Godber. Two actors, Kamal Kaan and Rohit Gokani, take on every character in a play set in an Indian restaurant on a busy night. They play the father and son owners, the staff, the customers, the lot. The stroke of brilliance in the play (don’t worry, my ego hasn’t lost all control, this will make sense in a moment) is that on stage is a chef who cooks a meal, live, as the play is acted out around him. This genius, and ridiculously difficult to incorporate idea belongs not to me, but to the director Stefan Escreet, which is why I can call it a stroke of brilliance and not appear an egomaniac. He first had the idea when he was working as a director at Keswick’s highly regarded Theatre by the Lake.
An outreach project featured the staff of a local curry house cooking a meal in a community centre, sparking conversations with local community that stretched beyond the ordering of food. Lo and behold, when the local community spoke to the people who made their tikka masala, they discovered they had far more in common than anything that separated them.
Good people like Stefan are going to be absolutely vital as we move into 2017. We need, more than ever, to pull together as we head into a year that’s going to test those of us who want to find our common humanity. Make no mistake, there are forces out there that want to separate us. Hull began its year as the UK City of Culture with an extraordinary fireworks display. It is a time for optimism and for all of us to get behind the oft beleaguered city.
Not for one national newspaper, however. This paper carried out what we call in the industry a hatchet job. Showing photographs of drunken people in the streets, the article was the kind you could cobble together in any city on any Saturday night. It’s time to turn our backs on the likes of these newspapers and their cynical articles. It’s a time to stand together, to celebrate our differences and that which we have in common. That’s the message I’ll be sharing about my new play this morning when I’m on Nihal’s show. Well, that and where you can buy tickets. Happy New Year!