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The Newcomers

24th-30th October 2022
BBC Radio Berkshire

RABBLE Theatre are commemorating 50 years since the arrival of 1,600 Ugandan Asians to Greenham Common, Berkshire, this month. The Newcomers is a new radio play produced in collaboration with BBC Radio Berkshire, starring household names from TV who are delighted to be working on such an important project.

“Although my mother and four sisters left Uganda with me before the horrific events depicted in this brilliant play, I still have vivid memories of my family home in Lugazi. It is a special place held very dear to me and I am so pleased that RABBLE have chosen to commemorate the events and the brave people who were affected. It’s a special project that I’m delighted to be a part of.” Bhasker Patel (Rishi Sharma in Emmerdale), who plays Mansukh.

The Newcomers follows the story of the Patel’s, a hard working family of integrity, split from their father, evicted from their Ugandan home and rushed to Greenham. They arrive with nothing but a suitcase each and £50, forced to start over, amidst mixed reaction from the local population.

Told through the eyes of 15yr old Jyoti, The Newcomers is a tale of cruelty, bravery, resilience and hope.

The Newcomers is written by Beth Flintoff (RABBLE Theatre’s associate writer) and Pragna Hay, whose story the play is based upon.

“I cannot even begin to comprehend what my parents and thousands of other Ugandan Asians went through during those dark days of uncertainty. The heartache and the trauma of packing their whole lives into one small case and landing penniless into an unknown country. But what I do know is that in learning about our ancestors we can see patterns of overcoming failure and surviving hard times. I am only here because they were there.
I hope this play can shine a light into the dimly lit hallways of the past.”
Pragna Hay, Co-Writer

Pragna arrived in the UK from Uganda as a refugee in 1972, staying at Greenham Common refugee camp. She lives in Newbury, Berkshire and, like many of her Ugandan Asian contemporaries, has an entrepreneurial spirt, running multiple businesses, qualifying as a microbiologist and serving as a board member of various companies. She established Uprooted 50 Years ago to organise exhibitions and events that commemorate 50 years since the expulsion.

Pragna co-wrote The Newcomers with Beth Flintoff, RABBLE’s associate writer, who also lives locally and is deeply passionate about the story.

“Pragna and I have known each other for years and it was before the pandemic that she first approached me wanting to explore ways to tell her story. Working with her and listening to the stories of other Ugandan Asians who experienced the trauma of being expelled from their homes is an experience I will never forget. It’s fifty years since this happened, but the subject matter is, sadly, just as relevant today.” Beth Flintoff, Co-Writer

The play is directed by Duncan McLarty, editor of BBC Radio Berkshire.

“We are absolutely delighted to be developing this important project. The contributions that the Ugandan Asian community have made to UK life are as amazing as their story is. It’s a privilege to be involved.” Dani Davies, RABBLE Executive Director

The Newcomers will broadcast daily at 9:50am from Monday 24th October 2022, concluding on Friday 28th October. A full 1-hour omnibus edition will be aired on Sunday 30th October at 2pm.

The Newcomers

Cast

(In order of appearance)

Nikki Patel

Nikki Patel - Jyoti

Nikki is best known for playing series regular Amber Kalirai in Coronation Street. Since then she has worked predominantly on stage, in productions such as Kenneth Branagh’s Romeo & Juliet in the West End, Sunshine on Leith at Leeds Playhouse and Future Conditional at the Old Vic. Most recently Nikki wrapped on her feature film debut, a British indie comedy, Little English. She also works extensively in character driven voice work including video games and audiobooks.

Shaheen Khan

Shaheen Khan - Shanta

Shaheen Khan is a British Asian actor/co-writer whose career spans over 40 years in film, TV, stage, radio, audiobooks and voice-overs.  She was a pioneering member of Tara Arts, the first British Asian theatre company in Britain.  She worked on Gurinder Chadha’s first feature film Bhaji on the Beach and went on to play the iconic Mrs Bhamra in Bend it Like Beckham, for which she was nominated for the Golden Satellite Award.  Other films include Tomorrow Never Dies and You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. Theatre credits include Midnights Children (RSC), Rafta Rafta National Theatre, A Tainted Dawn (Tamasha Theatre) Macbeth (Tara Arts).  Among her television work is the award winning The Boy with the Top Knot (BBC), Doctor Who, BAFTA winning My Life a Popat (CITV), BROADCAST AWARD winning and Bafta Nominated Apple Tree House (BBC). Radio credits include Girlies, The Doll’s House, Test Case C, The Song of Hiawatha. She has recorded over 30 audiobooks including The Mahābhārata, Arundathi Roy’s Azadi and Competition is Killing Us.  She has done numerous documentary and corporate voice overs including The Guardian Long Read and the Channel 4 India 1947: Partition in Colour. Her writing credits co-written with Sudha Bhuchar include Girlies BBC Radio 4 and Balti Kings for stage and radio. Shaheen won The Asian Women of Achievement Award for Arts and Culture in 2008 and the UK Asian Film Festival Silver Flame Award 2022

Bhasker Patel

Bhasker Patel - Mansukh

Instantly recognisable as Emmerdale’s much loved Rishi Sharma.

Bhasker was born in Kampala, Uganda.
Theatre includes: The Vote (Donmar) Anthony and Cleopatra (Liverpool Playhouse); A Map of the World; Tartuffe; The Magic Carpet; Wicked Yaar (Royal National Theatre); A Passage to India (Redgrave Theatre – Farnham); Aladdin and the Enchanted Lamp (Bristol Old Vic); Blood (Royal court / Joint Stock); Comedians (Lyrics – Belfast); Comedy of Errors (Octagon – Bolton); Little Clay Cart (Arts Theatre); Macbeth (NY International Festival); Macbeth (Half Moon Theatre); Mr. Robinsons Party (Tricycle Theatre); No Zealot Like a Convert (National Theatre Platform); Playing With Fire; Royal Hunt of the Sun (National Theatre); Subah O Shaam (Derby Playhouse); The Great Celestial Cow (Royal Court); Timon of Athens (Young Vic); Vigilantes (Arts Theatre, West End); Whale (Sheffield Crucible); Zameen (Soho Theatre).

Film includes: Kal Jisne Dekha; Bare Facts; The Man Inside; Twenty8k; Piercing Brightness; Ashes; Snowden; Pulp; Junkheatys; Anuvahood; Don’t Stop Dreaming; Kidulthood; Partition; In Der Kneipe; Transatlantic; Das Letze Ziegel; Immaculate Conception; A Business Affair; Spicy Rice / Dragon’s Food; Wild West; Being Human; Die Nacht Hat 17 Stunden; Kustenwache: Der Schleuser; It’s Not Unusual; Flight; Brothers in Trouble; Twin Town; My Son the Fanatic; Arabian Nights; Zehn Wahnsinnige Tage “Mut”; Mad Dogs; Thunderbirds; Bridget Jones: On the Edge; Call of the Toad; What’s Your Name 41; The Family Portrait; Rent; Golden Eye.

TV includes: Emmerdale; Holby M; A & E; Between the Lines; Billy Goats Gruff; Birds of a Feather; Boon; Brookside; Casualty; Civvies; Coming up for Air; Coronation Street; Crown Court; Dalziel and Pascoe; Dirty Filthy Love; F.L.I.P / Elephant Who Lost His Head; Fifteen Stories High; Funland; Game On; Happy Birthday Shakespeare; High Hopes; Holby Blue; Jerry Sadowitz in Pall Bearer’s Revue; Jewel in the Crown; Katy Brand’s Big Ass Show; Keen Eddy; Murder in Mind; My Family; NCS; Only Fools and Horses; Over the Rainbow; Pure Wickedness; Rear Window; Rides; Roger Roger; Sea of Souls; Skins; state of Mind; The Bill; The Last Detective; The Long Roads; The Missing Finger; The Scarlet Pimpernel; The Sea Captain’s Tale; Time Watch – A War Far From Home; Trial and Retribution; Two Oranges & a Mango; Urban Myth.

Radio includes: The Arabian Nights; The Cultural Front; Letting Out the Light; Reality Check; A Night in May; An Imaginative Experience; An Urn Full of Ashes; Bhowani Junction; Do the Needfull; Giles Wembley Hogg Goes Off; Grave Affairs; Grease Monkeys; Hayavadana; Light in Distant Rooms; Little Clay Cart; Midnight’s Children; Mother of 1084; My Brother’s Keeper; No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency; Paper Flowers; Parsi; Piece; Shakti; Silver Street; Singing and Dancing in Kanpur; The Brahmin & the Lady; The Ghost of No.10; The Great Celestial Cow; The Great Feast; The Murder of Maharajah; The Paternity Test; The Raj Qaurtet; The Tutti Frutti Holy Man; Vlad the Impaler; Walk or Die.

Maanuv Thiara

Maanuv Thiara - Suraj

Maanuv is currently starring in Vinay Patel’s reimagined THE CHERRY ORCHARD at The Yard Theatre. He was recently the lead in Jed Mercurio’s ITV crime drama DI RAY, alongside Parminder Nagra, before taking the stage in Indhu Rubasingham’s production of THE FATHER AND THE ASSASSIN at the National Theatre. He can be seen in Will Sharpe’s series LANDSCAPERS for Sky and HBO, alongside Olivia Colman, and the second series of Apple’s TED LASSO, with Jason Sudeikis and Brett Goldstein. 

Other television credits include BBC2’s THE BOY WITH THE TOP KNOT directed by Lyndsey Miller and series 5 of Jed Mercurio’s LINE OF DUTY. In theatre, Maanuv starred alongside Andrew Scott in the West End transfer of HAMLET directed by Rob Icke. He featured in A PASSAGE TO INDIA at the Park Theatre directed by Sebastian Armesto, and TROJAN HORSE, which was awarded an Edinburgh Fringe First and the Amnesty Freedom of Expression Award at the Festival in 2018. More recently he was seen in THE FUNERAL DIRECTOR at Southwark Playhouse and APPROACHING EMPTY at the Kiln Theatre. Maanuv is a Bristol Old Vic graduate and featured as part of their anniversary performance of KING LEAR alongside Timothy West.   

Jammy Kasongo

Jammy Kasongo - Joseph

Jammy’s previous credits include; TINA THE MUSICAL (The Aldrich Theatre), CASSETTE (Parkhouse Pictures), HAIR (Waterloo Vaults), BEAUTIFUL THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL (The Aldwych Theatre), THE TRUTH ABOUT ANNA (BBC Radio 4), THE GRAND HOTEL (Southwark Playhouse), SUPERIOR DONUTS (Capitol Stage Sacramento CA).

Dani McCallum

Dani McCallum - Mrs White

For RABBLE Theatre, Dani has played Sister Margaret in THE LAST ABBOT OF READING, Matilda in MATILDA THE EMPRESS, Beatrice in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING and Olivia in TWELFTH NIGHT.

Other credits include ANTHONY AND CLEOPATRA at Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory, JULIUS CAESAR for Guildford Shakespeare Company, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST at Basingstoke Haymarket and HEDDA GABLER at Bath Theatre Royal, with Rosamund Pike. She is also a professional stage combat instructor.

Emma Boyd

Emma Boyd - Fran

For RABBLE, Emma has performed in OFF THE BLOCK, having progressed through the RABBLE career development programme. Emma has since enjoyed performing with numerous companies, including Firehorse, Image and Lapland UK and is also a professional stage combat instructor.

Andre Valente

André Valente - The Guard

André joins RABBLE from Reading’s sister town, Dusseldorf, Germany, from where we recorded his scene. RABBLE are grateful to English Theatre Dusseldorf for the introduction.

Theatre Credits include English-speaking theatre group Port in Air, Cologne (2009 to 2017). SHAKESPEARE ON EDGE (2011) and HARDLY STILL WALKING YET NOT FLYING (2016) both nominated for the Cologne Theatre Prize. Hamlet in HAMLET (2012), Deeley in Harold Pinter’s Old Times (2013). He has also participated in various theatre installations and interactive performances in Cologne. He supports students with their English, physical education and drama at the Goethe-Gymnasium Düsseldorf and founded an English-speaking theatre group there in 2018. Since 2010 he has been working with university students, trainee teachers and refugees in the theatre sector. He has staged numerous plays with young people and children, performed at theatre festivals.

Toby Davies

Toby W Davies - Brigadier Beyts

For RABBLE Theatre, Toby has played Charlie Fry in Who Killed Alfred Oliver?, Thomas Beckett in Henry II, Henry I in Henry I of England and Capulet in Romeo and Juliet.

Other theatre credits include China Plate/Warwick Theatre tour, The Mousetrap West End, Bath Theatre Royal, Publick Transport, Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory, Hampstead Theatre and Southwark Playhouse.

Robyn Cowieson

Robyn Cowieson - Cassie

Robyn is a member of RABBLE Young Company
She appeared as an ensemble member in THE LAST ABBOT OF READING and took a main role in Young Company’s recent play, PRESSURE, which involved throwing herself in the Thames. This summer she participated in a summer school at The Globe.