Interviewer: What is the politics behind Asian theatre in Britain particularly?
Jatinder: I think the politics really of Asian theatre stems from a report written in 1976 called ' The Art Britain Ignores' . This is Naseem Khan' s seminal report which established a case for public subsidy to extend to ethnic minorities who were also practising the arts. I think 30 years on, that impulse has not lessened the need to recognise the arts that are happening, if you like, on the fringes of the mainstream. We are using different terms, we are now talking about accessing, making theatre accessible to communities that may not be accessing theatre. The terms differ over the years, but the impulse remains, I think, very clear. From that the politics is two-fold. One side of it is the need to integrate these varieties of voices and imaginations into if you like, the great British mainstream. That' s sort of one side of it. The other side of it is a phrase that a journalist in the late 70' s used, called ' Finding a Voice' . I think that that is an impulse that' s there in every generation exacerbated perhaps in the post-war period when it happens also to be an immigrant generation. Then the need to find your own voice is made more acute because you don' t see the voice around you, as a general voice, general part of the theatre fabric, since we' re talking about the theatre. So I think that those are the two sorts of impulses, political impulses behind it. And it seems to me that that project has not only not lessened, rather that political imperative has not lessened in three decades, but perhaps has become more acute. Ironically that in some ways, by the kinds of policies pursued by the State in terms of positive support for ethnic minorities in the arts. Ironically it seems to me that we are pretty close to having established two tiers of arts in the country. So, kind of cultural separatism is, I think, just about discernable in the country. It' s not formalised. But it seems to me, the best way to illustrate this is that several years ago I asked a theatre reviewer from one of our major dailies why he came to see the work of companies like us. In other words what I asked him was that, does he come because it' s this particular company, it' s a work that he knows, likes the work and so on, or does he come because its an Asian company, it' s a Black company, it' s an ethnic minority company. Now bearing in mind this is a reviewer who had seen by now about 10 different productions of ours, and he was the only one honest enough to admit that actually he comes because it' s black work. My art is immaterial in this. I could be doing trashy work, in terms of aesthetically trashy work. I could be doing aesthetically stunning work, it makes no difference. Only thing that' s important is how is it ethnically, and therefore politically significant. That was a salutary lesson or insight. And I' m not sure if I were to ask the same question of reviewers today, that that impulse would have changed much.