Calls for shake-up in stage and screen representation

PERFORMING ARTS NEWS


- Poll by Rifco Theatre Company shows need for storylines that accurately reflect modern day experiences of British South Asians, including themes such as modern relationships, mental health and mixed-race families

- Respondents overwhelmingly claim that despite an increase in representation, tired clichés and stereotypes still dominate and not enough has changed in the last 20 years

- Rifco launches 21 artists for 21 years initiative, commissioning new works to introduce and explore fresh and relevant themes for the 21st Century


Screen and stage representation of British South Asians are still lagging behind the times and need a radical shake up, according to a poll commissioned by Rifco Theatre Company to coincide with its 21st anniversary.

Despite an increase in representation, 77 per cent of leading British South Asian actors, writers and producers polled felt that too little had changed over the past 20 years to evolve with the times and accurately reflect modern day experiences on stage and screen.

Commenting on the results of the survey, Ayub Khan Din, said: “The biggest hindrance to getting our stories seen on television, film and stage is convincing producers that we are bankable and that white, as well as Asian audiences will watch.”

Only 20 per cent felt there had been real progress in portraying familiar characters they could relate to, while recurring plots, tired clichés and stereotypes remained one of the biggest challenges to overcome. The poll revealed a desire for more storylines that accurately reflect modern day experiences of British South Asians, with dating, mental health and mixed-race families being at the top of the agenda.

In response to this challenge, Rifco Theatre Company is launching 21 Artists for 21 Years, an initiative that will give voice to a new wave of British South Asian artists across the UK, who are encouraged to boldly tackle these modern themes within their play, spoken word piece, film, photography or textile design.

Pravesh Kumar, Artistic Director of Rifco Theatre Company, who was this year awarded an MBE for his services to British theatre, said: “When I founded Rifco Theatre Company 21 years ago, my vision was simple - if no one else is willing to represent the stories and experiences of the British South Asian community, I will. 21 years later, the way representation looks on our stages has progressed, but there is still work to be done and we must continually evolve to accurately reflect society. Rifco has been a major part of this journey, and will continue to provide opportunities to draw underrepresented artists and audiences together to create and enjoy relevant and accessible stories.”

The ambitious programme kicks off in March with New Voices, New Stories, which will see eight British Asian writers showcase their creative writing, exploring themes of mental health, identity and belonging, at The Bush Theatre. Other commissions include Celebrating Eid, a photography exhibition curated by Hafsah Aneela Bashir on the evolution of Eid celebrations at Oldham Coliseum theatre in May, Glitterball by Yasmin Wilde opening at Watford Palace Theatre in September exploring mixed heritage identity, GenerAsians, nine films to commemorate 50 years since Idi Amin expelled Ugandan Asians in 1972.

Rifco Theatre Company’s anniversary campaign ‘21 Artists for 21 years’ showcases new works from British South Asian artists and creatives. For more information or to take part, visit https://www.rifcotheatre.com/21Years