POWER OF DRAMA: Asif Khan in rehearsals for Tartuffe

by LAUREN CODLING

AN AWARD-WINNING actor has said he hopes to see more young Asians engage with the theatre as his play debuted in Stratford-upon-Avon earlier this month.

Asif Khan takes on the title role in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s (RSC) production of Tartuffe which tells the story of his character, Tahir Taufiq Arsuf, a fraudster who pretends to be an imam in Birmingham.

Arsuf works his way into a Muslim household, hoping to manipulate them and win their trust. His hidden agenda then comes to the surface and causes friction within the family unit.

Asif Khan plays fraudster Tahir Taufiq Arsuf in Tartuffe

Bradford-born Khan hopes the British-Muslim setting will appeal to young Asian audiences and encourage them to see the show.

Khan, who took an interest in drama when he studied at the University of Bradford, told Eastern Eye that though academic subjects were important, the arts should not be ignored.

“I would like to see young Asians coming to the theatre and doing drama classes and not always follow academic routes,” he said.

“They are great jobs that need to be done, but we would like to see more people join us [in the arts],” he added.

In June, Khan won the award for Best Production at the Eastern Eye Arts, Culture and Theatre Awards (ACTAs) for his debut play, Combustion.

The ACTAs focuses on diversity within the arts, a message which Khan strongly agrees with.

He believes it is imperative for the industry to reflect British society, hence the importance of platforms such as the ACTAs.

“We saw a lot of diversity in the London Olympics, for instance, but in theatre and art forms, we don’t see as much. It is predominately white,” he said.

On his current work in Tartuffe, Khan says he is excited to see the audience’s reaction to the modern British-Pakistani setting.

Originally performed in the 17th century, the story was written by French playwright Molière. Adapted numerous times, this will be the first time the story will be set in a Muslim household.

“It has so many new elements,” Khan enthused.

A big fan of his “mischievous” character, Khan says it is always a thrill to look at a new script and discover the story.

“Entering with a blank canvas and finding as much as I can about the actual text itself… that is when other ideas start to drop in about physicality and accent,” he said. “It
is a great character to play.”

While at university, Khan joined the Theatre of the Mill company and said it gave him an opportunity to realise his artistic ambitions and he decided to pursue a professional
career in acting.

Khan praised the theatre for its influence, admitting he has “a lot of love” for the group. “I learned a great deal there,” he recalls.

In 2006, he moved to London and trained as an actor at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA).

Since then, Khan has performed in and written numerous plays. He also featured on the BBC New Talent Hotlist 2017 for new writers.

“Drama is a powerful tool to communicate and express yourself,” Khan explained.

“Being able to create characters, explore what is going on in the world, and putting voices you never hear onto the stage and letting them speak is an amazing thing.”

Tartuffe is playing at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, until Saturday, February 23rd, 2019.

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