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Writer Vinay Patel on his new play and pressures of success

CREATION: Vinay Patel referred to the writing process of his latest play An Adventure as “magic”.
CREATION: Vinay Patel referred to the writing process of his latest play An Adventure as “magic”.


A BAFTA-NOMINATED writer has admitted he feels “terrified” about debuting his latest work, set to be staged in London from next month.

Vinay Patel, 32, is the writer behind An Adventure, which will run at the Bush Theatre from next Thursday (6).

Set across three continents, the story follows a young Indian couple as they journey from 1950s India to Kenya and finally, the UK.

Patel said he still feels anxious despite his success. “It is always terrifying,” he told Eastern Eye. “The day when you don’t feel like that is the day you should stop.”

An Adventure will debut next month at London’s Bush Theatre

One of the fastest rising stars in British writing, Patel created his first full length play True Brits in 2014. He went on to write critically acclaimed BBC drama Murdered By My Father two years later.

Another of his shows, Sticks and Stones, has just finished a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival before it goes on a nationwide tour. Last month, he was announced as one of the new writers for iconic sci-fi show Dr Who.

The new role was “very exciting”, Patel said, as he had grown up with an interest in science fiction. “I would watch Star Trek at the end of my dad’s bed as a kid,” he said, talking about his love for the genre.

Admitting he finds his success “really weird,” the playwright said his initial instinct is to run and hide from it. But he hopes to use his platform and visibility to encourage other young Asians to get involved in the arts.

“Trying to be there and present and not run from it too hard could make the path hopefully easier for people who come after me,” he explained. “I know when I was younger, if I had more Asians who were creative or more visible around me, it would have been so helpful.”

Sticks and Stones has just finished a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

In the future, Patel hopes to establish a prize which honors south Asian playwrights. Inspired by the Alfred Fagon award, which recognises black British playwrights, his aim is to shine the “spotlight” on Asian writers with a prize in a similar vein.

Of Indian origin himself, Patel said he sees so many emerging British Asian writers and feels the need for something that can be a platform for them.

“You can also connect people coming through to people who have been doing that work for a while,” he said. “That connection feels rich.”

Growing up in Bexley, south-east London, Patel said he wrote “loads” at school. However, he admitted he was unsure about how to pursue the career path of a writer.

His family were not the creative kind, and besides a stint at school when he played in a band – and wrote lyrics for the music – he had few creative outlets as a teenager, he explained.

Being a creative person felt “really weird, really fancible and quite bluntly, really white,” Patel revealed. He did not see a clear path ahead of him concerning how to make his writing aspirations become a reality.

Eventually, he completed an MA in writing for stage and broadcast media at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Patel remembers it as a time to “f**k up stuff,” and “fail quietly rather than fail publicly”.

“It is about trying to get better and that is how you build resilience and build your art as well,” he said.

Looking back at the pivotal points in his career, Patel recalled the impact Murdered By My Father had on him personally. Starring Adeel Aktar and Kiran Sonia Sawar, the drama revolves around a young British-Pakistani girl pressured into an arranged marriage.

Adeel Aktar and Kiran Sonia Sawar starred in Patel’s Murdered By My Father

Initially shown on BBC Three, its success led the film to a more mainstream rebroadcast on BBC One. It was nominated for three Baftas, including Patel being selected as a 2016 Bafta Breakthrough Brit.

Charities dealing with the issue of so-called honour killings saw a spike in calls after the show aired, and police in training are shown the programme to spot signs of forced marriage in communities.

“You think about that and go, ‘there is a possibility the work we did here has the chance to change or even save people’s lives and that is a really powerful thing,” he said. “Those five months working on it were terrible, but the end goal is you get to change the world in a tiny little way, and that feels really majestic.”

On why he found the show so tough to work on, Patel revealed the “grim” plot was a major factor. Portraying a sensitive subject matter, which was meaningful for so many, was a big weight on his shoulders and he claimed it “really got to [his] soul”.

“It was grim, but it is what it is,” he said. “And if you can tell that story easily, you probably aren’t telling it in the right way.”

Talking about his recent work, Patel referred to the writing process of An Adventure as “magic”.

Patel revealed it was based loosely on his own grandparents’ experiences, saying he was aiming to create a cultural artefact of his elders and their generation.

“It is trying to capture the truth of them before they pass,” he said. “From the thing that set them out across the sea, to the things they gave up making it work to how they feel about it now that they are on the cusp of this world and another… tying it together in one narrative, that is the only real way you can get the truth of those people.”

Patel agreed the story was challenging to write, but he said he is happy with where it has concluded.

“We have got it to a truthful and really beautiful place,” he said.

An Adventure will run at the Bush Theatre in west London from September 6 to October 20. Sticks and Stones will tour nationwide until October 21.