Continuing our series in which theatremakers reveal the culture they have been enjoying in lockdown, artistic director Indhu Rubasingham tells Fergus Morgan about streaming Friends clips on YouTube and enjoying nature
Indhu Rubasingham, artistic director of Kiln Theatre in London, has weathered storms before. She ensured the Kilburn-based venue had a successful reopening despite a small but audible clamour of discontent over its name-change from the Tricycle Theatre in 2018 – but she’s experienced nothing quite like this. Kiln closed in mid-March and its future, like every other theatre’s, is in limbo thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I never took this job for this, to be in this moment, to do these things,” she says. “The set from our last show, Pass Over, is still up on stage. The changing rooms still have stuff from the cast in them. It’s like a ghost town. Like a show frozen in time. It was really shocking to have to close a show without saying goodbye to it properly. It is nice not to have to go out every evening, though.”
I watch TV in the evenings when I want to distract my brain and when I want be taken out of my head and into another world. I love the TV series This Is Us, which is on Amazon Prime. It’s an American show about a family of triplets that takes you backwards and forwards in time, and it just has the most wonderful writing and acting. I cry and laugh at nearly every episode, which is very cathartic.
I have also just finished watching Never Have I Ever on Netflix, which is another American series created by Mindy Kaling. It’s about a young Indian teenager and her tribulations growing up in America. It’s very funny, very kooky, and very recognisable as a British Asian woman.
Normally I don’t have any time to read books, but before I did this job I used to love reading novels, so I’m trying to use this time to get back into it. I’ve just started reading A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne, which looks at ambition and what a writer will do to become famous. I’m really enjoying it.
I’ve also just been recommended a book called Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel. It’s about an actor who dies on stage while performing the role of a lifetime. It was recommended to me by the playwright Lynn Nottage. She said it’s really funny because it looks at something terrible happening through the lens of a theatre company, and that she couldn’t put it down, so I’m looking forward to reading that, too.
I’ve ordered Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other, which won the Booker Prize last year. I’m really juggling novels at the moment, which I don’t usually do, but I just never know what mood I’m in right now.
I’m enjoying my YouTube stream at the moment. I love to distract myself with whatever it recommends, which is everything from Friends clips, to comedians I’ve never heard of. It’s so eclectic. From American Idol auditions to film clips to bits from Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show. It sends you down real rabbit holes.
What else am I enjoying at the moment? I’m enjoying taking regular baths with scented oils and all that stuff. I’m enjoying being in nature more. I’m noticing the birdsong and the flowers more than I ever have. I even enjoy walking in the rain. Everything at work feels very high-stakes at the moment, which is exhausting, so I enjoy anything that takes me out of myself.
How are you keeping your theatre work going?
Tom Wright, our new works associate, has been running various workshops online, and he is about to start a new series of workshops for emerging artists and directors. The director Susie McKenna and I have done free masterclasses as well, and the recordings are absolutely available to anyone that wants them – they just have to get in touch. We have every intention of doing more things like that, so watch this space.
All our creative engagement programmes for young people – our youth theatres and our Minding the Gap programme, which is for young people for whom English is a second language – are back up and running online. We are going to run them like that throughout the summer. I’m really pleased we’ve been able to continue them.
I have every confidence that theatre will survive this, because when it is safe enough to reopen, we are going to need it more than ever. There’s going to be a real need for it in terms of bringing people together, in terms of outreach work, in terms of providing support for our communities, as well as for telling stories. It will be a really important part of society again. I really believe that.
For more information, visit: kilntheatre.com