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Following the success of our 2016 Made at Curve production Wipers, playwright Ishy Din returns to Curve this March with his latest play, Approaching Empty. In this blog, he tells us more about the piece and why you should see it from 28 – 30 Mar.
What made you want to write Approaching Empty, and why did you think it was a story that people needed to see on stage?
The ordinal idea for Approaching Empty was born out of my play Snookered, which told the story of four young Asian men that were born in the UK. I felt there was more to be explored within this community and we came to the decision that I would write a trilogy of plays about the Asian immigrant experience. Approaching Empty is the second of the trilogy.
Whereas the first was about young men born in this country, I wanted the second to be about men that came to Britain as young teens, having a clear idea of what was left behind but then have spent the rest of their lives here. The third will be about adult men who came to this country, leaving behind families but always with the idea they would one day return “home”.
The themes in each are friendship, family, community and betrayal. Because of my association with cabbing, I felt that this would be a good place to set the play. Then as the discussions around the piece continued the socio-political themes began to emerge. The play is set around the death of Margaret Thatcher, a seminal figure in British politics but particularly relevant to Asian communities, especially in the North as the heavy industries of those areas were our raison d’etre – those factories were closed down and it had a profound effect on the communities that relied on them.
I think it’s important to see this piece as it comes about when communities, particularly working class communities, are becoming ever fractured. I feel it is timely because the decisions that were made in those years at the end of the 70s and beginning of the 80s have a direct effect on where the country is now and where the ramifications of those decisions have led us.
You wrote our Made at Curve production Wipers in 2016. How does it feel to be bringing this new piece of work back to Leicester?
Working with Curve was a joyous experience and the people of Leicester really embraced me and my play Wipers, which was about South Asian soldiers in WWI. It is such a diverse and vibrant community, and a city that I always feel enjoys work from different artists from all types of backgrounds. A diverse cultural offering is welcomed and appreciated there.
I can’t wait for Approaching Empty to open at Curve, I think it will resonate with theatre-goers, but it will also give me a chance to meet up with friends and colleagues that shared the Wipers journey.
How did you find writing Approaching Empty compared to Wipers?
Writing from the point of view of a character is very similar regardless of the time and place a play is set. You obviously have to keep in mind language, cultural references and historical context, but I think there is a universality about character that resonates with audiences regardless of the time and place of setting.
With Wipers there was a lot of research involved which I found enlightening, and really made me aware of the contribution made by South Asians in both World Wars. With Approaching Empty it was more a lived experience that I often referred to. Each was at times both frustrating and difficult, but I think that is more to do with the process of writing than the subject matter.
How have you found working with the show’s Director, Pooja Ghai, and watching this piece come to life on stage?
I was aware of Pooja and the excellent work she is and has been doing for a while now, so was excited to hear that she was going to be directing the piece. As I suspected, she brought an incredible amount of craft and knowledge to the process and really understood what I was trying to do with the play. I was deeply impressed by her interaction with the actors and how she really had a grip of each of the character’s journeys, their psychological and emotional positioning and what each of the characters was striving for and what was driving them.
Who do you think should see this play?
I’d like to think that Approaching Empty can be seen and appreciated by the whole spectrum of communities within the UK. It is about Mansha and Raf in a scruffy cab office, but could easily be about Harry and Jack in a back street garage or Maureen and June in a greasy spoon café. The play is about friendship, family and community, so should resonate with us all.
APPROACHING EMPTY AFTER-SHOW DISCUSSION
Fri 29 Mar, following the 7.45pm performance
Hear more about Approaching Empty from Ishy at the after-show discussion for the show, following the evening performance on Fri 29 Mar. Ishy will also be joined by members of the cast at this event, which is free with your show ticket.