BENEATH THE SURFACE

“​If all we had to say was I love you you love me / like some fucking fairy story fucking romcom fucking happy ever after but this is not / that is not on offer // not on offer”

(I AM): DRAMA, FULL-LENGTH PLAY, LGBTQ+ THEMES | 6 actors

This project created by Bobby Tiwana based on British Asian LGBT+ life stories took various forms: workshops with performance extracts; short animated films Little Elephant and Chariot Riders; and a script for site-specific performance I Am.

Read an extract from I AM here

Watch LITTLE ELEPHANT here

Watch CHARIOT RIDERS here

Want to perform or produce I AM?

workshop and film performers Sudha Bhuchar, Jason Eddy, Ernest Ignatius, Aysha Kala, Asif Khan, Manjeet Mann, Amaka Okafor, Ronak Patani, Bharti Patel, Dharmesh Patel, Rochi Rampal, David Smith, Andrew Turner, Tanya Vital and Amina Zia

conceived and commissioned by Bobby Tiwana
writer Carl Miller
composer Niraj Chag
designer Jean Chan
directors Kate Chapman and Steve Johnstone
director Little Elephant and Chariot Riders Kate Jessop
choreographer Ash Mukherjee
sound designer Adam McCreedy
production assistants Robert Beck and Mitchell Vernals
video documentation Rob Speranza
research interviews by Kate Chapman, Carl Miller and Bobby Tiwana
image by Sakab Bashir

INSPIRATION AND PROCESS

BY BOBBY TIWANA

INSPIRATION

In August 2011, my partner and I met with the Good as You (gay men’s) group in Bangalore, India. It was a revelation. The room was full of Indian gay men some local and others from different parts of India. Most were out, living their lives and still had active relationships with their families. There was a tremendous energy and optimism for the future in the room. Whilst this was one type of India, a part of the educated/professional group, it was contextualised by other liberalising changes in the country: the repeal of Section 377 (a Victorian remnant criminalising homosexuality) and an increase in cultural activism mostly evidenced through Pride events and LGBTQI film festivals. On returning home I started contemplating on my own experience as a British gay Asian man and that of my peers many of whom remain hidden, keeping secrets and sometimes leading double lives. I then started looking for cultural representations of British Asian homosexuality and soon found a significant dearth. By chance, I started talking to Kate Chapman at this time; she was a great sounding board and momentum in clarifying my vision. It was at this point the idea for the project came about: to increase visibility of British Asian lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) lives through theatre. I wanted to feel that energy and optimism recreated in the UK.

PROCESS

I was fortunate in securing a creative team that bought into the idea and helped me realise its vision. In autumn 2012 we put a call out for gay and bisexual men and women to be interviewed as part of the creative research. We received three and a half times more interest than we had capacity to deliver. We conducted 10 oral history interviews across England with men and women. Using a flexible framework with semi-structured questions, we charted a person’s story from birth through to the present day. Upon completion the creative team of writer, co-directors and producer, listened to all of the material drawing out common themes and areas of interest for inquiry. Using the research as a starting point, Carl Miller wrote a first draft of monologues at the beginning of the year. In spring he and I ran two creative discussion workshops in London and Wolverhampton, facilitating an inclusive space to explore aspects of same sex desire and experience through one-to-one discussion and writing. Using the experience as further stimulus Carl then wrote a second draft with more characters in July; and finally a workshop draft most recently. The Beneath the Surface workshop performances are a deliberate stage in the process of making a full piece of theatre. They are to present British Asian gay and lesbian lives through character to audiences intimately. We are also attempting to play with different ways of presenting material. The workshop is designed to enable audiences to respond to the theatrical provocations indirectly through further stimulus if desired. Working in 6 towns and cities in a range of spaces with different audiences offers an interesting challenge as well as much excitement. This stage will go on to inform the realisation of a full length piece in the future. We hope that you enjoy the experience!