Vikash Bhai: New spin on the traditional British pantomime
The lead actor of The Foreigners’ Panto, written by Shani Erez, talks about the play that has its world premiere at Bold Theatre in London
POLITICAL comedy The Foreigners’ Panto has its world premiere at Bold Theatre in London next Tuesday (3) and runs throughout the month.
Written by Shani Erez, The Foreigners’ Panto is based on her personal experience of facing deportation and revolves around a group of immigrants trying to put on their own version of a traditional British pantomime.
The musical satire, with original songs, has a talented cast led by Vikash Bhai. It adds to diverse projects the versatile actor has done. Eastern Eye caught up with him to find out more.
How do you lookback on your acting journey?
With gratitude. It is because of the people I’ve met along the way, that I’m here enjoying what I get to do now.
Which character has been the closest to your heart?
I’d have to say Farhad, from Ben Sharrock’s film Limbo.
Tell us about your new play The Foreigners’ Panto?
The Foreigners’ Panto is a fun, silly and insightful political musical comedy. It’s a sharp satire on the lives of immigrants in the UK, told through their eyes. A group of immigrants are attempting to put on their version of a traditional British panto.
We have the usual suspects, like the dame, villain and even a cow, as well as some not so usual others.
Tell us about the character you portray?
I will be playing Lord Villain, the hero of the story. And look, they will all try to convince you that he is the evil mayor of London, but they’re wrong and probably lying. He’s just misunderstood. You make one mention of wanting to rule the world and everyone sees you as evil.
Who are you hoping will connect with the story of this play?
This might be a bit of a cliché – everyone who comes to see it. Whether you like pantos, don’t like them, have never seen one or don’t even know what one is, this play will have a little something for everyone.
What is the biggest challenge of playing this role?
Having too much fun. Is that possible? I suppose the villain in a panto is quite a bit of a challenge. It’s a kind of a fine line between the audience both liking and not liking you. They’ve got to love to hate you and I think with the help of (directors) Shani (Erez), Sarah (Goddard), and Marianne (Badrichani), we’ll find it.
What is your own favourite moment in the play?
Great question. Honestly, it is difficult to choose one, but Visa the cow played by Amanda Villanova has some great one liners. I’m also looking forward to singing these new songs.
You say about getting nervous before a performance, but how do you feel
being on stage?
Theatre is my first love and it’s been a while since I’ve been on stage. So, I’m both nervous and excited.
What according to you makes for good theatre?
So many things, and it’s so subjective. For me its character driven stories, some comedy and poignancy. Some years ago, I saw a play called These Trees Are Made Of Blood at the Arcola, and till date it’s one of the best things I’ve seen. It was a fun show. The characters took you on a journey – you laughed with them, sang songs with them and they brought you on side, which set up the ending perfectly.
What inspires you?
Watching other great performances, music, audiobooks, and sometimes even a conversation you might overhear at a bus-stop.
Why should we all come watch the play?
It’s a fun show and a ‘panto’ in October. We have a great cast – Suzy Kohane, playing Benedict Bumbercatch, Fabrizio Matteini as Dame Foreign, Gabriel Paul as John Constable, Aliya Roberts playing Zara Foreign and Amanda Vilanova as Visa (the cow). They will all make you laugh, and my singing will make you cry. See you in the panto bar or at the pub after the show.
The Foreigners’ Panto is on from next Tuesday (3) until October 28 at BOLD theatre, 21 St George’s Road, London SE1 6ES. www.boldtheatre.com