• Thursday, July 25, 2024


Vinay Patel, Milli Bhatia pay heartfelt tribute to Abdul Shayek

Abdul passed away unexpectedly of natural causes. He was 39.

Abdul Shayek

By: Mohnish Singh

Writer Vinay Patel, theatre director Milli Bhatia, and actress Zainab Hasan expressed their sorrow and paid tribute to Abdul Shayek, the artistic director and joint CEO of Tara Theatre, who passed away unexpectedly of natural causes. He was 39.

Vinay took to Twitter and remembered Abdul as a “sharp” and “driven” individual who had “big visions”.

“Utterly miserable news. Abdul was a dedicated man building great things at a theatre that centres S Asian life and is very close to my heart. All the love to his young family. Awful,” he tweeted.

“I am really bodied by this. Abdul was sharp, driven, made things happen, and had a care for the community around Tara, and big visions beyond. There was a grand future ahead of him that would’ve benefited us all. His poor family. His poor kid. This is such a massive loss,” he wrote in another tweet.

Milli called him a “fearless leader”. “Devastating news. I had the pleasure of working with Abdul several times, and he did so much for South Asian artists in such a short time at Tara, what a legacy. A fearless leader, and a good friend. My love to Nicole and his family, and all at @TaraTheatre,” she wrote.

Shareefa Energy, who is a writer and educator, wrote, “Sad news. Thank you, Abdul for supporting @freedom_theatre in Jenin Refugee Camp only a week ago, sharing your space with us to support Palestinians being bombed in the West Bank when most theatres turned their back. Thank you for always being supportive. Love to Tara ? & family.”

Zainab’s tweet read as, “Completely blindsided by this devastating news yesterday. It made me cry. Abdul was a real one!He was one of us! A fellow Working Class South Asian -a rare thing in our unforgiving industry- who genuinely cared. Cared about giving unheard voices a platform. Here’s just 1 E.g.”

Abdul was announced as Tara Theatre’s Artistic Director in August 2020. In an interview with Eastern Eye, he had spoken of his hopes for the theatre and plans to invite members of Tara’s neighbourhood in Wandsworth to join him on walks, to share stories and insights into the local community.

“I think it is really important that we listen. Covid-19, obviously, has been really detrimental in terms of the challenges it has created. But on the flip side, it has given us an opportunity to do some soul-searching, consider what isn’t right within the (arts and culture) sector and think about representation, equality, and equity within our institutions. We have to seize the moment to change things and that’s why the things we want to start off with at Tara are very much about the community and the stories within it,” he said.

Tara Theatre is known for creating theatre through a South Asian lens, championing South Asian voices and artists, and identifying new narratives, ideas, and forms.

In another interview with Eastern Eye, Abdul had said that he feels it is crucial to hold on to “our South Asian identity”.

“I think it’s really important that there is a space in the UK, where our stories have an actual home.

Born in Bangladesh, Abdul left the country when he was three. In his words, theatre happened to him “by accident” as he was trying to avoid going to the “vets” for his work experience placement in secondary school. “So, I was trying to avoid going to the vet, and I was wandering around trying to find an alternative. I walked into a theater and asked to do some work there for the experience. They said no first but soon agreed and that’s kind of where it all started,” he recalled while talking to Eastern Eye.

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