The most recent was directing the rehearsed reading of a new play, ‘Prince of Delhi Palace’ by Ravi Kapoor, at the National Theatre Studio.
Madhav was the founding Artistic Director of Actors Unlimited – an idea of his in response to what he saw, and still sees, as unfair discrimination in the British Theatre. He simply wanted to give actors more control over their talents, and was determined that all casting should be done irrespective of race, colour, creed, political or sexual persuasion.
The people, who agreed to be Patrons of Actors Unlimited, were Lord Chitnis, Mr Maneck Dalal, Sir Alec Guinness, Sir Peter Hall, The High Commissioner for India, Lord Jenkins, Ms Miriam Karlin OBE, Mr Swraj Paul, Dame Flora Robson.
The first full season of plays was produced by Madhav at the HOWFF in Primrose Hill, in 1973, in partnership with Margaret Morris (a Granada TV Drama Producer) and MS Productions (which had been formed because Ms Morris was not an actor) at the above venue. This season of 6 productions was in association with Roy Guest (a music industry executive, who had the lease of the venue) and Seamus Ewens (who was in charge of the bar and catering). Madhav found all the plays, largely thanks to the help of Richard Imison, Head of Scripts, BBC Radio, and also found all the directors, designers, stage management, and actors.
Everyone got paid the same. The Company received no public funding, and the entire season paid for itself from takings at the box office, bar and restaurant, and by one production transferring to the West End.
Each production rehearsed for 3 weeks and ran for a minimum of 2-3 weeks, and everyone was employed on no less than Equity’s minimum terms and conditions.
The productions were all favourably reviewed in the trade and national press.
The productions in this season were:
(a) WAIT TILL THE SON SHINES NELLIE by Lynda Marchal (now Lynda La Plante), directed by Nicholas Barter, with a cast that included Jack Allen, Laurence Carter, Constantin de Goguel, & Barbara Keogh.
(b) KINGDOM COTTAGE by Bill Lyons, directed by Jane Graham (now Jane Morgan), and the cast included Richard O’Callaghan, Emily Richard, & Malcolm Hayes.
(c) PUNCH & JUDY STORIES by David Fitzsimmons, directed by Jonathan Hales, with John Alderton, Paul Angelis, Pauline Collins & Christine Hargreaves in the cast. This production, under the new title of JUDIES, was transferred in due course by Michael White and Robert Fox, in association with Madhav, to the Comedy Theatre in the West End, and was hailed at the time as creating a bit of theatrical history as the first production to do so from the ‘fringe’ with the same cast, designer, director, stage management etc
(d) THE LOVE OF LADY MARGARET by Bill Morrison, directed by Margaret Morris, and in the cast were Diana Fairfax, Seymour Matthews, Morris Perry, Stassia Stakis & Katharine Stark.
(e) HAMLET by William Shakespeare, directed by Joseph O’Conor, and the cast included Ronald Forfar, Constantin de Goguel, David Graham, Chris Hunter, Jonathan Newth, Joseph O’Conor, Juan Moreno, Barbara Shelley, John Somerville, David Stern, Carolyn Taylor, and Madhav in the title role.
(f) A double bill of HOME LIFE by Courteline & RESPECTABLE WOMEN by Feydeau, translated and adapted by David Cohen, directed by Roderick Graham, and the cast included Christopher Benjamin, Raymond Graham, Christina Greatrex, Jo Kendall, & Penelope Lee.
All the productions, barring the Shakespeare obviously, were World or London Stage Premieres. Throughout the season, the Sets & Costumes Designer was Cecilia Brereton, the Technical Manager was Hubs Hubback, Lighting was by Roger Ackroyd and Stephen Batiste, and the Stage Management Team was Judy Garrett, Kathy Marechal & Kerry Ross.
In 1974, Actors Unlimited presented another season of London Stage Premieres. Again Madhav found all the plays, the directors, the actors etc. He was assisted in all the administration by two actor colleagues, Amanda Cuthbert and Geoffrey Larder, and received invaluable support from the West End Theatre Producer John Gale.
The productions were:
(a) THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING NEUTRAL by Royce Ryton, designed & directed by Darrol Blake, with Gareth Forwood, Derek Fowlds, Vivien Heilbron, Anthony Sharp, Eleanor Summerfield, Marilyn Taylerson & Madhav among the cast.
(b) SAM SLADE IS MISSING by Bill Morrison, directed by Valerie Hanson, with James Ellis among the cast.
(c) THE IRON HARP, written and directedby Joseph O’Conor, with Tim Barker, John Castle, Clem Davis, Raymond Graham, James Hayes, David Horovitch, Geoffrey Larder, Maureen O’Brien, Dick Sullivan, Jeremy Young, & Harry Webster in the cast.
(d) AWAY FROM IT ALLby Peter King, directed by Alex Marshall, with Ann Bell, Rodney Bewes, Peter Jeffrey, Wilfred Pickles (later replaced, because of illness, by Colin Douglas), & Zena Walker in the cast.
The backstage team for this season involved Hubs Hubback as the Technical Director, Roger Ackroyd for lighting, designers included Mary Moore and Stephanie England, and the Stage Management team was Susanna Dawson, Tim Gale, Lindsay Garforth, Chris Hunter & Carolyn Taylor.
The next few years were spent arguing with the Arts Council - who were only interested in funding the setting up of an all Asian theatre company, a concept that Madhav was opposed to as the only strategy – because of his instinctive revulsion of separatism, his commitment to professional standards, and his belief that we all, irrespective of colour of skin, should challenge unfair discrimination in different ways, and also from within the mainstream. Sadly, there were many who were opposed to this and they came from the Left as well as from the Right of the political spectrum. They, including some Asians, believed in separate development as the only answer, and thought all notions of artistic standards and trades union terms of employment to be a bourgeois imposition. With hindsight, it would seem that they deliberately confused the funders by conflating the argument about supporting ethnic artists in ethnic art forms with supporting artists of ethnic backgrounds who wished the freedom to pursue work in whatever art forms they chose. The ACGB did not fund Actors Unlimited for many years, refusing even seed money to constitute it as a legal entity, and finally, only gave a guarantee against loss for the project in 1983, which was also supported by the GLAA, the GLC, and an Emergency Theatre Fund administered by British Equity.
Paradoxically, the Arts Council asked the Wakefield Tricyle Theatre Company to take Madhav on board, as co-Artistic Director with Shirley Barrie & Kenneth Chubb, to inject professional standards and Trades Union values into their work.
In partnership with and for the Wakefield Tricyle Theatre Company, in 1977, Madhav directed CONFESSION FEVER by Terry James, at the King’s Head in Islington, designed by Peter Ling & lighting by Tim Ball, with John Castle, Julie Dawn Cole, Douglas Fielding, Julia Goodman & Maureen O’Brien in the cast.
In 1978, again in partnership with and for the Wakefield Tricycle Theatre Company, Madhav directed A DAY FOR EVER by Michael Sharp, at the Open Space Theatre in Tottenham Court Road, designed by Jane Smith and lighting by Tim Ball, with Keith Barron, June Brown, Jill Dixon, Marion Fiddick, Harold Goodwin, Geoffrey Larder, Lynne Miller, Stella Tanner, & Royston Tickner in the cast.
Madhav also directed THE MID-ATLANTIC CABLE CAR STATION by Terry James at the Terrace Theatre of the ICA in The Mall.
After he left the Wakefield Tricycle Theatre Company (having helped them secure architect’s plans for a new Tricycle Theatre building, and obtaining Miriam Karlin as one of the patrons), Madhav carried on working as an actor and an occasional theatre director, continued with his Equity activities, all the time trying to gain support for developing and continuing the principles of non-discriminatory work.
In early 1981, in partnership with Verity Bargate & Bill Ash (who were the Artistic Director & Literary Manager of the Soho Poly), Madhav directed ALIENS by Karim Alrawi at this venue, designed by Dee Greenwood, lighting by Graham Cull, Stage Management of Mike Freer & Yvonne Sellins, and with Carol Gillies, Geoffrey Larder & Art Malik in the cast.
During 1979 and 1980, in partnership with Richard Everett, Estelle Daniel, David Loyn, and the Upstream Theatre Club, the Rev David Wickert, and Anne Hopkinson, Madhav directed two productions at St Andrew’s Church in Short Street.
THE PROMISE by Alexei Arbuzov, designed by David Roger and lit by Christopher Bush Bailey, with Polly March and Stephen Lyons among the cast.
SCHUBERT by Ronald Duncan, designed by David Roger and lit by Christopher Bush Bailey, with Jenny Seagrove, Royston Tickner & Michael Wolf in the cast.
It was in the autumn of 1980 that Madhav was introduced to Ravi Jain, the Founder and General Secretary of the National Association of Asian Youth, by Tariq Younis. Ravi offered Madhav a job, which he accepted on certain conditions. Madhav was to be Artistic Director of an Asian Festival (not a Youth Festival as in previous years, but a more high profile event showcasing Britiah Asian professionals, in which he would involve some Asian youth, especially for education, training and development) in 1981, for which Madhav would be paid a small salary and given access to a room in their Southall offices, a telephone and an assistant of his choosing. Madhav would have total artistic control, once a policy document that he would submit was approved by the NEC of the NAAY, and Actors Unlimited would become a project of the NAAY (already an established charity, thereby making it easier to attract funds to develop AU’s work). Also, Madhav could continue to work as a freelance actor and theatre director. He started working for the NAAY in December 1980. Trisha Stovold was appointed Festival Administrator, and later, Christopher Bush Bailey as Production Manager.
The first thing Madhav did, having secured the Commonwealth Institute in South Kensington – its’ theatre, the Jehangir Room, the Board Room, the Main Gallery, & the Central Podium – from 10 am to midnight, largely through the assistance of Jevan Brandon Thomas, for the whole week of October 5th 1981, was to commission Biman Mullick to design a logo, and to form a supervisory Festival Committee, which finally consisted of the following individuals:
Dame Peggy Ashcroft (actor), Robert Atkins (Arts Director, Commonwealth Institute), David Barlow (Secretary to the BBC), Belkis Bhagani (Copy/Pictures Editor of ‘Broadcast’), Mark Bonham Carter (Chairman, Race Relations Board), Anthony Cornish (Drama Supervisor, Capital Radio), Mrs HOH Coulson OBE (President, Women’s Council), Dr Rochi U Hingorani (International Cultural Exchange), Mrs Roshan Horabin (first Asian Probation Officer in the UK), Nazir Hussein (NAAY), Richard Imison (Head of Scripts, BBC Radio), Ravi Jain (NAAY), Viram Jasani (Musician), Sundar Kabadi (Doyen of Indian journalists in the UK), Miriam Karlin OBE(actor), Shaukat N Khan (NAAY), Mrs David Lean (Arts Patron & wife of the celebrated film director), John Mckenzie (Director, Commonwealth Arts Association), Zia Mohyeddin (actor/producer),
HE Dr VA Seyid Muhammed (High Commissioner for India), Suresh Mulani (NAAY),
Pushpinder Myrpurrey (NAAY), Dr Bhikhu Parekh (Hull University), Swraj Paul (Asian
industrialist), Peter Plouviez (General Secretary, British Equity), Dr IP Singh (Deputy High Commissioner for India), HE AR Shams-ud Doha (High Commissioner for Bangladesh), Kenneth Thompson CMG (Retired Director, Commonwealth Institute), & Lord Willis (writer/initiator of ‘Dixon of Dock Green’).
During that week were presented, among others, the following performances, workshops, seminars etc in the different spaces and at different times:
Joint Stock Theatre Group and The Royal Court Theatre’s production of BORDERLINE by Hanif Kureishi, directed by Max Stafford Clark, designed by Peter Hartwell, with David Beames, Vincent Ebrahim, Deborah Findlay, Nizwar Karanj, Lesley Manville, & Rita Wolf in the cast.
Ensemble Dream Tiger’s production of East-West 3, directed by Paul Kriwaczek (Producer of ‘Parosi’ on BBC TV),narration byZohra Segal, with Margaret Field (soprano), Kathryn Lukas (Chinese and European flutes), Rohan de Sa Ram (Kandyan drum & cello), John Mayer (Tanpura & Violin), Peter Hill (Piano), Douglas Young (piano, percussion & musical director). The programme contained premieres of 6 Ragamalas, and the world premiere of ‘Swapna Bagh’, both composed by John Mayer (an Indian Christian).
The Old Vic Youth Theatre’s production of BLIND EDGE, devised for theFestival, through improvisation and discussion, in collaboration with Karim Alrawi, directed by Lucy Parker, lighting by Graham Cull, with Ashraf Mahmud Neswar, Riffat Bahar, Richard Bench, Howard Brown, Shreela Ghosh, Giselle Glasman, Kola Ilori, Edward John, Cathy Kilcoyne, Alphonse Mendy, Eddie Ofusu-Osei, Michael Quain, Mick Roche, Latifat Saka, Raymond Stevenson, & Paul Tierney in the cast.
A production of MOWGLI, adapted from Kipling, with music specially composedby John Mayer, directed by Sharad Keskar, and performed by 75 children of all races from a London school.
A production by Shilpi Gosthi of RAMAYANA, with a cast of some 42 mainly Bengalisingers and dancers, accompanied by 7 musicians on various instruments.
A production by the GRAEAE THEATRE COMPANY, aprofessional company of disabled actors, starring Nabil Shaban (an Asian quadriplegic).
A performance, by the Tai-Shen Chinese Play Association of Liverpool, of Folk Dance and Mime ballet.
There was a dance performance accompanied by audio visual effects by Flora and Ashvin Gatha, and a mime performance & workshop by WaynePritchett.
A BOOK FAIR was organized by Mariam Shah and the Shakti Book House.
Exhibitions of paintings and photographs, mainly organized by Indian Artists Uk, included work by Prafull Dave, Yashwant Mali, Prafulla Mohanti, Arvind Oza, Lancelot Ribeiro, David Richardson, Mala Soi, Suresh Vedak, Gurmeet Singh Virdee, Ibrahim Wagh, & Mohammad Zakir.
Cello concert by Anup Kumar Biswas, accompanied by Robert Bottone, sitar concerts by Viram Jasani & Clem Alford, music workshops & performances by Keshav Sathe, Ravichandra, Markandey Mishra, Keith Waithe, Isaac Tagoe, Hilton Leite, Nawazish Ali Khan, Amancio da Silva, Rohan de Sa Ram, John Mayer, Vara Kartigeyan, Tripti Das and others.
Workshops in Bharatnatyam dancing by Surya Kumari, Chitra Sundaram & Shreela Ghosh, and on Manipuri & Odissi dancing by Pratap & Priya Pawar. There were others in Rabindra Sangeet & Ras Garba by Lalitha Ahmed, Mehndi by Meena Patel, and Storytelling by Niru Desai (Harrow Asian Womens’ Association). Also, there was one by the Asian Womens’ Standing Conference.
Lecture by Biman Mullick, an exhibition of Phulkari together with a lecture by Nasim Ali., Seminar on immigrants in English literature chaired by Prabhu Guptara, and one on ethnic minorities in the performing arts chaired by Madhav, etc.
There were performances by S.S.Kohli’s group from Galsgow, Seva Dhaaliwal’s group from the Midlands, Rajinder Singh Suthar, Sanat Sinah, Pandit Das Mishra, 11 year old Sanjay Sharma, Sheila Chandra and Indipop with Monsoon, Asian Artists Association, Jazira, Jai Jalaram Arts Group, The L.I.F.E. Foundation, & United Artists Association.
On the last night Madhav presented a Lifetime Achievement Award to Zohra Segal, and in his citation, referred to her as the ‘Dame Sybil Thorndike of Indian actors in the UK’.
Announced at the Festival was a playwriting competition, initiated by Madhav and Actors Unlimited and sponsored by Anthony Cornish, Drama Supervisor of Capital Radio, and the NAAY, for plays in English by or about Asians in Britain, the closing date for the receipt of entries being July 31st 1982, as clearly stated in the printed leaflet. Karim Alrawi won the first prize for a play written by anyone over the age of 18, which was why Actors Unlimited revived his play ALIENS in 1983.
At the Festival and at Upstream Theatre, Madhav directed (for Actors Unlimited) OUR OWN PEOPLE by David Edgar, designed by David Roger, Lighting by Graham Cull, and with Tim Brierley, Deirdre Costello, Shelagh Fraser, Janet Key, Art Malik, Zohra Segal, Geronimo Sehmi, Dino Shafeek, Terence Soall, and David Yip in the cast. Production Manager was Christopher Bush Bailey, Sound was by Mic Poole and the Stage Management team included Mary Churchward , Geronimo Sehmi, & Colin Reese (who was also Assistant Director). This was made possible by a special grant from British Equity for Actors Unlimited.
Also in 1981, at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley, in partnership with Ian Watt Smith (the Artistic Director of this venue), and Ken McReddie, Madhav directed JOURNEY’S END by R.C. SHERIFF, with a cast that included : Robert Addie, Harold Goodwin, Simon Green, David Gwillim, & Ian McCulloch.
In 1983, at the Upstream Theatre, Actors Unlimited presented HEDDA IN INDIA, a version ofHenrik Ibsen’s ‘Hedda Gabler’, adapted and directed by Madhav. It was designed by Peter Ling, and in the cast were Donald Gee, Jamila Massey, Raad Rawi, Jenny Seagrove, Zohra Segal, Josephine Welcome, & Tariq Younis. Music was by Anup Kumar Biswas. Backstage team included Christopher Bush Bailey, Derek Chabrol, Graham Cull, Raj Patel, Colin Small, & Navin Thapar.
In 1983, also at this venue and on tour, Madhav directed a revival of ALIENS by Karim Alrawi. This time, we had Shelagh Fraser, George Irving, & Kevork Malikyan in the cast. It was designed by Peter Ling, had lighting by Bosco O’Toole, with a stage management team of Derek Chabrol, Raj Patel & Colin Small. This was part of a double bill that included APPLY, APPLY, NO REPLY by Dilip Hiro, directed by Tony Wredden, designed by Suresh Vedak, lighting by Bosco O’Toole, with Derek Chabrol, Lyndam Gregory, Raad Rawi, & Dev Sagoo in the cast, and the same stage management team as above.
Madhav has also directed at drama schools, his last production being at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, when proceeds from box office takings at this final year showcase were donated, at his behest, to the Save London Theatres campaign.