A BRITISH Asian star of a new Aladdin play, believes diversity is being taken more seriously in the theatre industry.
Minal Patel, from north-west London, is delighting audiences at the Mercury Theatre, in Colchester, playing Emperor of Colchestaria, an original character adapted from the Aladdin movie.
He told Eastern Eye, “Diversity is being seen very differently in today’s world; it’s taken more seriously.
“More south Asians are leaving drama schools and working and that, I feel, is encouraging creatives and producers to invest in them. As well as, of course, the pioneers that have been championing south Asians in our industry for decades.”
Patel noted how he had not seen enough south Asians in pantomimes previously, but said things are looking different now.
“I haven’t seen many in the past, but this year – post pandemic I’ve definitely seen many of my south Asian colleagues are working in Panto. Things are changing,” he added.
The 32-year-old, who left drama school in 2012 and whose musical theatre credits include Curtains (UK tour), Man Of La Mancha (London Coliseum), and Aspects of Love (Hope Mill and Southwark Playhouse), said it isn’t hard for south Asians to get into the theatre industry.
He said: “The south Asian community is growing; we are not just actors but also in production and creatives roles too.”
Asked about his thoughts on subverting traditional character roles such as having a female genie in this production, he said: “I think it’s great. I’ve always been of the mindset that whatever you feed people, it has to be excellent quality and done with love and joy, and they will be happy – especially coming from an Indian family.
“The same applies to subverting traditional character roles for me. If the actor playing those parts is truly convincing and believable, then it should be done – it makes storytelling more interesting.
The new Aladdin, which is being performed from November 27 to January 16, 2022, will have a theme of rock music – different from the original film.
“Our Aladdin is obsessed with rock music. So, the show is filled with anthem after anthem, couple that with an insane cast and brilliant costumes and set it feels like you’re at a rock concert with Queen or Bon Jovi,” said Patel.
Patel wishes to keep ‘disrupting the paradigm’ and also tell stories of his own stories about ‘kindness and magic from a south Asian perspective’.
Aladdin is running at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester, from Friday 10 December 2021 – Sunday 16 January 2022.