• Wednesday, March 22, 2023


Kiran Sonia Sawar: ‘There should be a more equal platform’ in theatre


AFTER seven years away starring in TV shows Black Mirror, Silent Witness and
The Nevers, actress Kiran Sonia Sawar returns to the stage to take a leading role in the play Brilliant Jerks.

From the writer of the acclaimed HBO/BBC series Industry, Joseph Charlton, Brilliant Jerks is centred on the creation of a multi-billion-dollar car-hailing app.

Inspired by Charlton’s time as a journalist covering Uber, audiences are taken behind the scenes of the big ideas that shape modern society, showing how tech giants inadvertently alter consumer behaviour as well as the dangers of ignoring the responsibility which comes with power.

“It’s a comment on the capitalist world we live in and how different people from different parts of that world have to manoeuvre themselves around a system to get what they need,” Sawar told Eastern Eye.

Sawar stars alongside Sean Delaney (Killing Eve), and Shubham Sharaf (Shantaram,
The Father and the Assassin).

All three actors play multiple roles alongside their main role – Sharaf portrays the app’s founder Tyler, Delaney is app coder Sean and Sawar’s character is Mia, a woman trying to battle the misogynistic work culture at the app’s offices.

“The play is three separate stories, about three different people from varied socio-economic backgrounds,” said Sawar.

“What I loved about it was it’s an actor’s dream – a proper actor’s play where we are doing multiple roles. We’re all playing four or five different characters, doing a variety of accents and having to be very specific with our body and voices.

“It’s just been a great segue into delving straight into a play in its rawest form, without all the tech and lights and big stages. It’s just really about three actors in one space,” she added. Sawar also plays a driver earning her living by picking up passengers booking through the app.

Sean Delaney (right) and Shubham Sharaf in Brilliant Jerks (Pic: Nick Rutter)

Charlton spoke of his delight at having such a “stellar” cast, describing them as “incredible actors”.

He added: “I’m astonished and colossally excited by the three actors we’ve assembled for Brilliant Jerks. I’ve followed Kiran, Sean, and Shubham for a few years and all three are incredible actors.

“The play is a mixture of direct address and vigorous multi-rolling throughout; and calls for a trio of supple, intelligent, and commanding actors.

“All three are special talents and I can’t wait to see them bring the play to life.”

Sawar said it’s a sign of progress that two Asian actors, in herself and Sharaf, perform parts not written as Asian characters. However, there is a long way to go when it comes to diversity and inclusion in theatre, she said.

Kiran Sonia Sawar (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)

Asked if there are more opportunities now for actors of Asian heritage in theatre, Sawar said, “Not really, if I’m honest.

“I think in terms of this play, it’s amazing because me and Shubham, these parts could be played by anybody. They’re not ethnicity specific which is what was amazing about the show in the first place.

“It’s nice to be in an Asian majority cast that’s not taking place in India or talking about terrorism. It’s amazing and I wish there was more of it.”

She added: “There are a lot of gatekeepers in the theatre world. It feels like quite a close-knit community I don’t particularly feel I’m a part of.

“There should be a more equal platform.

I feel very, very awkward when I’m in a theatre building and in a theatre space, even when just watching a play. I don’t know what that says.”

Though Sawar spoke of her pride to be playing a non-Asian role, she said she still is keen to also play Asian characters that can shine a light on issues affecting the community.

The 32-year-old’s breakthrough role was in 2016 when she played a victim of honour-based violence in the gripping BBC series Murdered By My Father.

“It was really, really hard work,” she said.

“It was only the second thing I’d ever filmed and it was very challenging. I was still learning and the subject matter was horrendous.

“I found it difficult as I hadn’t learned to distance myself from what I was doing.

“I remember it being a story that I really wanted to tell. I was completely invested in the stories and case studies I was reading and the documentaries I watched – all the stories of young girls. I just was not able to shake it off at the end of the day. It’s a shame that it’s still so relevant in society now. But all we can do is really ally ourselves with the stories we think are important in a world, especially as Asian actors.”

She added: “You get pigeonholed in certain brackets, but this was a bracket I was very much happy to speak about, something in our lifetime that should be able to be fixed.

“Forced marriages and honour killings are just not something that should be a narrative for any young people living next door to us in the UK and around the world,” she said.

Sawar will next be seen the channel 4 production True Love which comes from the team behind BAFTA award-winning series The End Of The F***ing World and has a cast including Lindsay Duncan (Rome, Sherlock), Clarke Peters (The Wire, Da 5 Bloods) and Sue Johnston (Downton Abbey, The Good Karma Hospital). And then she will be seen on the big screen opposite action star Jason Statham in Meg 2: The Trench.

“It was a cool experience. Action movies are a different beast, for sure. “But it was a really wonderful experience, very physically demanding and very different to my previous work.”

Talking about working with Statham, she said: “He’s so versed in the action genre. It’s interesting to watch someone like that, to learn from them. And that’s what I like to do, watch people and just learn. It’s the same as watching Sue Johnston or Clarke Peters. You watch them and you just go ‘wow, they’re amazing’.

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