I WANNA BE YOURS: PP chats to Ragevan Vasan (HASEEB)

RAGEVAN VASAN as HASEEB in I WANNA BE YOURS
Photo by The Other Richard

What is I WANNA BE YOURS about?

Ella and Haseeb. They recount their relationship and personal experiences with the help of Rachael (and sometimes to her). 

 How did you get into theatre?

 My parents forced me into elocution classes as a kid (their experience as immigrants made them think that speaking well could give you confidence and a better chance in life). I’m not sure if it’s still a thing but it was quite popular in the British Sri-Lankan community during the late 90s-early 00s.

But actually, those classes taught me how to read and introduced me to drama, which became my favourite subject at school. I wasn’t a popular kid but when it came to Drama, people would tackle me to the floor to shotgun pairing up with me. Fights would break out, the teacher wouldn’t know what to do. It was havoc, but I was low-key gassed (with bruised ribs).

I didn’t know much about theatre until I was 15. My art teacher gave me a free ticket to see a play which an ex-student of hers was in. It was Danny Mays and the play was upstairs at the Royal Court; they had transformed the space into a dingy hotel room. My mind was blown, I was like ‘rah wow this is a thing? Look at how real it all is. People actually do this for a job? I’m in!’

Saying that, I resisted the theatre for a bit, I thought it was risky. I came back round though cos it made me feel good.

 What attracted you to the role of HASEEB?

When I read race specific parts, a lot of the time I come away thinking, ‘yeah that didn’t make me feel good about being brown’. But Haseeb is the most emotionally complex character I’ve had the chance to play. He gets to fall in love and the love is reciprocated (also refreshing), and he experiences all the nuance that comes with being in love. It’s also so honest about how we experience race. I remember reading it thinking ‘er this Zia is a brave brother, can you really say this? Have they actually given you the green light on this one?’

What has working alongside Rachael been like?

It’s the first time I’ve been involved in integrated BSL and it’s been flippin wicked. Rachael’s mesmerising to watch. She was there from the start of rehearsals. It was challenging at first because we could see the potential. We weren’t interested in her sole purpose being interpreting, it felt detached from us. We wanted to all tell this story together and once we truly surrendered to that, we found flo. 

We were also lead by Anna Himali Howard (our director) who is a brilliant collaborator; she understands actors and we created a working language very quickly. It was a very open room where we could communicate any difficulties about the BSL process with ease. I hope all actors get an opportunity to work with BSL because so much of drama is about the difficulty of communicating one’s truth. Having Rachael there makes it so much richer (and easier; she does half my job for me). I’ve probably forgotten how to act without it.

Do you have a favourite moment in the play?

 Nah, too hard to pick. 

What was touring I WANNA BE YOURS like for you?

A blur. But a great blur. Performing in a different city everyday for 6 weeks isn’t as tough as I thought it would be (but a lot of that is down to Alice; big up our company manager). The venues were welcoming and excited to have us.

We rehearsed and opened in London and I was nervous about going to cities around the country which were predominately white and saying some of the things my character says. ​To be made aware of your race, to be called ‘white’- it can be quite confronting if you haven’t experienced that before. 

A lot of the play speaks directly to the audience and I don’t buy it when people say ‘you never know what the audiences are thinking’. When you look at someone directly in the eye, you can tell whether they’re vibe-ing you or not, and it can completely shift your energy in how you tell that story. And that can feel problematic. Sometimes there would be an underlying feeling of ‘ok, maybe I have to explain myself here’ but that instinctively felt wrong. Like, why am I apologising through these lines? Why am I feeling like I have to re-interpret this text? Ok, there’s one person here who gets it so I’m gravitating towards you but now I’m feeling like I’m not sharing the story. I don’t want to be a spokesperson and the play doesn’t want me to do that either so why am I suddenly feeling that now I’m in an environment which feels a bit detached?

Anna really helped me with that and it always came back to the character’s truth. Getting to make direct connections with audience members is a massive gift. That’s why this show has never once felt the same, which keeps me sane and constantly inspired. 

I also learnt a lot from conversations we would have with people after the show. Something which came up a lot (and continues to) is how refreshing it is to see the play tackling race and discrimination without anger and with subtlety, tenderness (those kind of words). I sort of get it and I’d think ‘ok, let’s not challenge that because that is your experience’ but ultimately, I think it reveals more about the person and how they want race to be portrayed. Like it is only palatable when communicated in a certain way? What does that say about the way we choose to listen to and interpret ideas surrounding race? 

I will admit I absolutely loved being out of London for a bit though. It was calm. I think I might need to move by the sea or into the woods.

Did you have a favourite venue on tour?

Remember that blur I told you about…We did perform in a record-shop-by-day-theatre-by-night in Ventor, Isle of Wight. That place was sick. The audience were sitting on sofas and arm-chairs; it kind of blended into our set seamlessly. It felt very communal. 

How does it feel to be bringing the play to the Bush?

For me, it feels like a homecoming. A lot of this play speaks about London and living in this city so if you know, you know (however, I’ve discovered that north-south wars exist in all cities. People are fierce over their territories. We are animals). The Bush studio is very intimate and we’re in thrust; I can see everyone in most directions, there’s no hiding, but that’s completely right for this story. The play feels very clear in this space. 

  Sam’s or Morley’s?

Sam’s. Morley’s lack spice. Come at me. 

I WANNA BE YOURS is playing at the Bush Theatre until 18 January 2020.

Tickets available here.

Recruitment: Executive Producer

We’re hiring!

We are looking for an Executive Producer to work with the Artistic Directors, team and Board to lead Paines Plough into a new phase.

You will support in driving forward the strategic direction of the organisation, overseeing all of Paines Plough’s shows and finances, and ensuring a dynamic and effective team. We’re looking for someone who will encapsulate the company’s ethos – being open to opportunity, collaborative and inclusive – and who can drive delivery of our ambitions. You will be willing to travel across the country to represent Paines Plough and ensure we support our intention to be ‘local’, getting to know the communities we’re collaborating with.

Reporting to: Artistic Directors

Responsible for: Producer, Administration and Finance Manager (to be reviewed following probation).

Principal Duties and Responsibilities

The Executive Producer will work closely with the Artistic Directors to set the strategic direction and be responsible for leading the team to ensure its implementation.

Key Responsibilities:

Strategy

Together with the Artistic Directors develop and implement the strategic direction of Paines Plough, creating a business plan to reflect and support this.

Lead on the continued development of the business model to ensure the strategic direction and aims are achievable.

Develop and maintain stakeholder relationships across the wider sector, ensuring Paines Plough continues to be a key player in the national landscape.

Discover and nurture the best national playwriting talent and support the strategy which underpins how these playwrights are discovered, developed and produced.

Programming and Producing

Support the Artistic Directors in the creation and delivery of an exceptional programme of new theatre, leading on producing mid and large-scale projects and manage the Producer, overseeing the whole programme.

Work with the Artistic Directors to initiate and secure effective co-producing partnerships, national and international tours and transfers that will expand the reach and potential for commercial exploitation of Paines Plough’s work.

Together with the Producer, ensure the theatre programme is financially viable and successfully delivered.

Marketing and Communications

Oversee the management of Paines Plough’s brand, ensuring the vision, voice and values of the organisation are effectively communicated.

Work with the Artistic Directors to ensure Paines Plough’s work has as wide a reach as possible, maintaining and building on Paines Plough’s national audience base and profile.

Oversee campaigns for productions, festivals and local activity to ensure audience and financial targets are met.

Oversee creation and delivery of the social media strategy, with the aim of increasing Paines Plough’s online presence and reach.

Oversee the relationship with external PR, ensuring clear plans are set that secure the greatest exposure for Paines Plough and its work.

Initiate and manage new partnerships that will support in delivering a bold and exciting programme that is experienced by and connects with more people.

Development

Lead on the creation and delivery of a fundraising strategy in order to meet financial targets, cultivating and managing funder/patron relationships, and ensuring reporting deadlines are met.

Identify new income opportunities, write funding applications, and support the delivery of fundraising events.

Finance

With the Artistic Directors, create the annual budget and oversee the preparation of the management accounts, ensuring targets are appropriate and met.

Oversee the effective financial management of Paines Plough ensuring financial procedures are upheld, that statutory requirements and the completion of comprehensive financial reporting for dissemination within the team and Board are all upheld.

Seek out new business opportunities and identify ways to improve efficiency that will support Paines Plough’s financial resilience and sustainability.

HR and Governance

Work with the Board to ensure effective organisational governance.

For more information including person specification, please head to: https://www.painesplough.com/pp/get-involved

Application:

In order to apply, please send:

  • Your CV
  • A cover letter outlining your interest and suitability for the role in line with the key
  • responsibilities and person specification;
  • And a completed equal opportunities form

To recruitment@painesplough.com with the subject line: Executive Producer Application.

by 10am, Monday 13 January 2020.

Interviews:

  • First round: Monday 20th January 2020;
  • Second round: Thursday 23rd January 2020.
  • Please notify us of any availability issues in your email.

Good Luck!

Team PP