Indhu Rubasingham: The theatre world doesn't thrive on consensus but complexity

As she begins her week as guest editor of ”WhatsOnStage”, Indhu Rubasingham explains why she agreed to step up to the job

Indhu Rubasingham, artistic director of the Tricycle Theatre and WhatsOnStage's guest editor
Indhu Rubasingham, artistic director of the Tricycle Theatre and WhatsOnStage's guest editor

Is now the time to admit that I was quite reluctant to do this?! Thoughts like – "it’s too exposing", "it’s not something I know much about" and "I have enough to do already!" were predominantly swirling around my head. After some gentle persuasion, I am here. I have huge admiration for WhatsOnStage. Whatever the outcome of my editing this week, this experience has pushed me, provided a platform, and forced me to create thinking time.

These days, times are tough. There is much fear, frustration and anger channelled into a constant stream of soundbites. Less time for discussion, a need to be right, instead of listening and too often a reduction into a "them and us" dynamic. This has also created a fear that expressing an opinion will lead to immediate backlash. Instead, things smoulder and are spoken in quiet corners with only like-minded people.

Hmm… well I’m not going to solve any of this. But it is what preoccupies me and is also why I love what I and many of us do in the world of theatre. We can get into the nuance of an argument, the ambiguity is what drives us, we don’t want consensus but complexity. We thrive on the acknowledgement that there are many truths, not simply one, which is often determined from where you are standing.

Through this experience with WhatsOnStage, I have found out surprising things from people I know well. The interviews have made me sit down, talk and listen more intently to good friends. I have the joy and privilege of being a part of an eclectic community of brilliant and passionate artists, so I thought I would use this week to share some of these voices…

Our industry thrives on the acknowledgement that there are many truths, not simply one

You’ll hear from Noma Dumezweni and Lucian Msamati, two brilliant, leading actors in this country, whom I have had the greatest pleasure of working with and calling friends. It’s been a while since the three of us have been in a room together!

I get to talk with the brilliant James Graham whose play, Ink, is opening this week at the Almeida. We both grew up in Mansfield and both went to Hull University to study drama. His worldview and political insight were a pleasure to listen to.

Last year I worked on a political thriller called The Invisible Hand by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Ayad Akhtar – he’s going to share a little bit about the political climate in the US, what it’s like to be labelled as an American Muslim playwright and how his life changed after receiving the Pulitzer Prize.

Indhu interviewing
Indhu interviewing

We’re currently undergoing a massive capital refurbishment campaign at the Tricycle. It’s been a real learning curve and an amazing opportunity to update and improve our building. In an exclusive video for WhatsOnStage, our capital general manager, Nafeesah Butt, and my PA, Sonia Jalaly, will give you a sneak peek of the building site and a bit of insight into what a capital project involves.

You’ll also hear from Sonia about what it actually means to be the PA to an artistic director, or as she’d put it 'the Anne Hathaway to my Meryl Streep'.

And finally, we’ve asked a number of artists from Emma Rice, Rufus Norris to Adrian Lester to think about what advice they’d give their 18 year-old selves. I have found some of this very moving, as well as very funny but all are deeply personal.

So thank you. I hope there is something in here to tickle your fancy and thanks to the WOS team for their hard work and generosity in giving me this opportunity.

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