The Trouble with Asian Men
Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 12-Sat 16 Jun
Male Asian actors must be relieved to know that there is still work for them in Britain that doesn’t involve playing either a terrorist or comic family man. A good deal of that work comes from Tamasha.
In recent years Tamasha has received enough gold stars for the public to get over its intimidatingly successful premiere of Ayub Khan Din’s celebrated East is East and look at the company anew. One of the reasons is this treble authored 2005 hit, here making a welcome visit to the Citz. The idea of asking over 100 assorted people from various ages, races and income brackets their views on Asian blokes, then editing the tapes down to form a single, multi-voiced script is adventurous; piping the tapes into the ears of four actors so that they can recite the dialogue, verbatim to the very pauses, even more so.
But don’t feel sorry for Nick Khan, who among his many characters must get under the skin of a white taxi driver, a Swedish girl going out with an Asian man, and a secretly gay Asian man. He’s having a great time. The actor acknowledges the technical challenges, but was well rewarded when this revival went up in London. ‘When we opened last weekend 80 percent of the audience were Asian women. At the start we come in among the audience, and ask women, “what do you think of Asian men?”, and they give it, “they’re ignorant, they love their cars too much, they spend too long grooming their beards” and so on. It was really funny.’
There is, though, a more serious element: ‘I suppose since 9/11, there’s been such a huge change in the perception of the Asian community. Brown is the new black. I’m 39, so I can remember when black people were the ones to hate. Now Islamophobia is very much the thing. We’ve had a government and media who’ve disenfranchised people so their own voices aren’t heard - it’s rare to see people speaking for themselves.'