Sometimes a dream role can come along and really take your breath away,” gushes actress Ayesha Dharker about her latest role — as Queen Scheherazade in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s (RSC) version of the Arabian Nights.
The London-based actress took a well-deserved break in India, enough to relax before she dons the garb of the famous storyteller-queen from Persia.
The Arabian Nights will be staged at the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare, from December 15 to January 30. “The way all this came together is like a story from the Arabian Nights. This project is the realisation of a very personal dream. I have always wanted to work with the RSC and have waited for the right opportunity to come along. I have also been drawn to the stories of Arabian Nights and have made a great effort to find different translations over the years,” says Dharker, who has earlier been seen in Broadway musical Bombay Dreams and Hollywood films such as Star Wars III: Attack of the Clones.
She is fresh out of her role as Tara in the long-running soap Coronation Street, and the alacrity with which Dharker bags major international projects shows how roles are no longer stereotypical for Indian actors abroad. In the Arabian Nights, she plays Scheherazade, the queen who saves her life by telling stories to the king for “a thousand and one nights”. The play is based on the original stories from the Arabian Nights, and rehearsals will be held in London till November, before the play moves to Stratford. Dharker feels that she has been preparing for this role for a very long time.
About Indian actors on the British theatre and film scene, Dharker adds, “A few years ago, they might have been typecast but things are very different now. Producers, directors and writers are interested in making their cast as vibrant as possible. Were this not true, I would not have been offered roles like Joan of Arc, roles in Doctor Who, and on Coronation Street as a regular character,” she says.
Despite finding her niche abroad, Dharker sees herself “very much as an Indian actress from Bombay”. Reacting to the Wikipedia entry that refers to her as a British actress, she says, “I stopped using it as a reliable source after I saw their entry.” The actor, who shot to fame with her award-winning performance in The Terrorist, expresses her interest in working with new, young and talented Indian directors, particularly
Zoya Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap and Rajat Kapoor. Until then, here comes the queen.