Image credit: Jane Hobson
True Brits, by Vinay Patel, explores the challenges young Rahul faces in the aftermath of 7/7. Sweeping between the high tensions in London 2005 and the high patriotic energy of the 2012 Olympics, Patel raises the issues of being accepted by your country and society as tensions rise.
From his own personal experiences, Patel explains that it was mainly two factors that inspired him to write True Brits:
“The first that the society I grew up in had tossed me aside after 7/7 and the second, during the Olympics, that this was my home, always was and likely always would be.
They’re both feelings that will eventually be lost in time and I wanted to write something that captured them, an angle of what it was like to be alive as a young British man of Asian descent during those two summers whilst not alienating what would likely be, let’s face it, a majority white middle-class audience.”
Since True Brits first run, violence and tension have advanced from Syria and Iraq to the UK. Now, as it is being performed this month, the show couldn’t be timelier.
“It’s going to be fascinating for me to see it performed within the context it’s now in. If I’m a lucky man, people will come away from it with a tiny dose of hope and empathy to help ward off the overwhelming paranoia that seems to be lingering.”
Patel goes on to explain the frustration he feels as he notices people wanting to distinguish between Muslims and other backgrounds. As soon as people can distinguish, they separate, generalise and hate an entire race. He emphasises that he doesn’t “want to be looking to separate when solidarity is so clearly what’s needed.” True Brits highlights this and Patel is desperate to show that this “apparent mass of disaffected British youths” has the best intentions.
It cannot be argued that the media, and even politicians, do generalise and stereotype different cultural backgrounds, including those of Asian descent. It is this stigma that hold young people back.
“I see too many things that propagate the myth that Asian youths, particularly Muslims, are a hair trigger away from buying a one way ticket to Syria.”
True Brits honestly explores this and allows the audience to see them reflected in the characters. As the propaganda push the stigma towards society, people do acknowledge that it is just a generalisation and as intellectuals, we know that 99.9% of Muslims aren’t terrorists. However, Patel explains that “it’s about getting to that place of feeling and allowing all sorts of audience to see themselves reflected in those people. That emotional identification matters a great deal.” This emotional connection is what will break down the stigma and hate. Reinforcing what Patel said, there needs to be that solidarity of equality and Patel clearly portrays this in True Brits as it shows that young Brits-of Asian descent- “aren’t all flag waving patriots…they just want to get on with playing games, finding jobs and making clumsy attempts to get into each other’s pants.” Just like any other young British person.
Late last year, actor and writer, Meera Syal commented that British Theatre needs more Asian plays for Asian audiences. Although Patel doesn’t think they need it he does believe that “they’re missing a trick”. He admits that he first stayed away from writing about his background as it “looked like a trap”. Now Patel is aware that relating the two, like True Brits, allows a “wonderful opportunity for connection”. He went on to say that there are “plenty of knotty questions that theatre can pose to Asian audiences in a way TV and film cant.”
Patel’s latest project Sons Of India sounds very promising. He emphasises that he “desperately wants to get it right.” Sons of India relates to India’s independence and the relationship between Ghandi and Subhas Chandra Bose. He describes it as a “seductive idea.” India’s independence is heavily linked to Ghandi’s narrative as good triumphed evil. “It’s going to be the most ambitious think I write so far.”
Patel has an act for creating thought provoking and current pieces which, most importantly, connects to everyone. True Brits will be showing at the Vault Festival and it sounds like it has something for everyone to take away.
True Brits is on at VAULT Festival 4-22 February. More details here.