So less than six weeks until Strictly Balti plays the Edinburgh Festival fringe. When Travelling Light commissioned the show last year, Edinburgh seemed a long way away. However, rather than creeping up on me, I have been joyfully caught in its' headlights for the last six months, making plans, sending emails working on copy...
Aside from actually doing the show (which I love), I can't wait to be back in the Scottish capital. The last time I was in Edinburgh, it was nearly fifteen years ago. One of my first ever acting jobs was a beautiful trilogy of mini plays called Cornershop. All three plays, each set in different corner shops, looked at the diaspora of British Asian experience. We had one Muslim writer, one Hindu writer and one Sikh writer. We covered most bases. The show was produced by Man-Mela, a fantastic British Asian theatre company and directed by Dominic Rai.
On the first day of rehearsal, as we shared our names and cultural backgrounds, there was a wave of amusement when I stated that my parents had originally come over from Bangladesh. I was later informed by the rest of the cast (most from Indian and Pakistani heritage) that not many Bengalis found their way into the arts and also that the people of Bangladesh were often a source of amusement for the rest of the subcontinent. As I said, this was the first day.
Circumnavigating this particularly Asian prejudice was fine and the people were lovely, warm and generous of spirit. However there was one issue. I was never quite Asian enough. I didn't appreciate Bollywood, I didn't know my Shah Rukh Khan from my Hrithik Roshan, my pronunciation was generally incorrect and I was far more into Bill Evans than AR Rahman (I still am although I've found an appreciation for the latter). Indeed for a number of years during the late nineties, I often felt like a man apart. I was too English for the Asian Theatre scene but too Asian for the mainstream. It didn't stop me working, it just meant that rehearsal breaks were sometimes uncomfortable. All the other Asian actors were laughing at something excruciatingly funny. Apart from me.
Fast forward to last year and Travelling Light, having seen my first solo show, The Tiger and the Moustache, wanted to make a virtue, a feature of this confusing, conflicting clash of cultures. For the first time as a British Asian actor, I was going to tell my story. Whereas 'Tiger' had been my mother's story, in Strictly Balti the bewildered boy that I used to be was going to take centre stage.
And now it's here or at least six weeks away.
Six weeks until the greatest theatrical showcase on the planet.