The Public Reviews’ Rich Jevons talks to Darren Kuppan on his rôle as Maneer Khan in the touring production of East is East.
What were your early years like in the industry?
Before I was an actor I actually started off as a dancer from when I was about seven or eight. Then from the age of twelve to 16 I was British champion, which was fantastic! After that I started doing theatre workshops, but it was through dancing that I really got into the arts.
How was your time at Queen Margaret University?
Training is one of those things that some people get a lot out of. Honestly, I got a lot out of it but I didn’t get as much as most people. I think theatre school certainly hones certain skills but I don’t necessarily think it makes you a better actor. It gives you the tools for the outside world and prepares you.
For those that haven’t seen the film or the West End production, can you tell us about the story of East is East and the family you are a part of?
It’s about a mixed race family, half Pakistani, half English, who are like everyday normal families. One of the oldest sons, Nazir, has left the household after his family shunned him for being gay. Abdul and Tariq are tied into arranged marriages without their consent and the story revolves around what happens with that and the struggle that the family has with identity.
And what is your character like?
His nickname is Gandhi because he’s got these huge round glasses and he’s the one that gets bullied the most because he’s a devout Moslem. He’s the only one who understands his Dad on that kind of level. This is the reason why he’s the butt of all the jokes, because he’s the “good son” – religious and a goody two-shoes. His journey is one of certainty; he knows his own identity and Tariq and Abdul are jealous because they don’t know where they belong.
What are the parents like?
It’s a struggle for George who has come over and married a white woman, so it’s quite a strange situation. He still wants the ways of Moslem culture, but it’s catch-22 in a way. It’s a very difficult situation for both of them.
What has it been like working with director Sam Yates?
Sam is a very relaxed director and he’s kept certain things that worked from the West End production as well as bringing in new things too. In rehearsals we’re very free to do what we want and then, towards the end, he refines that.
What do you admire about Ayub Khan-Din’s writing?
Ayub was Twitch in the West End show, which was strange because when we started he still had that twitch in his eye. So it is based on a true story. The writing is really Northern and gritty, which I can relate to in that sense. It was written nearly twenty years ago, but even now it’s still really relevant. The problems of the play are still happening today, which is the sign of great writing. It’s very funny and quite dark as well.
What would you like the audience to take away with them?
Essentially we just want them to come and have a good time, but as well to get people to think about certain things. The play tackles a lot of issues that maybe you shouldn’t speak about or at least only discuss in private. I would like people to just come, laugh, cry, understand and enjoy.
East is East runs at Alhambra Theatre, Bradford from 31st August to 5th September