A week and change ago I blogged about the awesome Nimmi Harasgama and her invented auntie: netta, a dame with a mouth blunt enough to make even your amma’s honesty look as soft as rasmalai.
Speaking of Amma, one of the videos I linked to in that post included part of netta’s collaboration with D’Lo, who referenced an “Amma” character. Herewith, a few more of those joint sketches, including appearances by Amma herself… and if the tickets haven’t all gone yet and you are in New York, then, you lucky reader, you can get a ticket and see D’Lo live tonight at D’FunQT : A BIG D’Lo SHOW. (You can pronounce it “defunct.” Did I mention TONIGHT? It’s part of Dixon Place’s 2010 HOT Festival.) Wish I could go! I met D’Lo a few years ago through mutual friends, and… what an actor! what a mimic! what a riot!
The show is described as “a stand-up story show with tales from the QT side mixed in with a Sri L.Ankan twist. D’Lo the artist explores topics relating to South Asia, transgender social justice, hip-hop culture, loneliness, and the resilience of the human spirit.” I’m struck by the mention of loneliness; one of the most touching things in the videos I’m linking below is the genuine sweetness of D’Lo’s attempt to alleviate auntie netta’s loneliness.
Here’s some more D’Lo / Nimmi stuff, and then, below the fold (can I say that on a blog?), Nimmi answers questions about a few things, including their collaboration.
—–Nimmi on netta’s live show, her career, and collaborating with D’Lo—–(edited e-mail conversation)
VVG: How did the show go? What did it mean to transition this character from these brief video sketches to a much longer performance on stage? What were the challenges?
NH: The show actually went well! We had full houses for both performances. ( I had to do two shows in one night as that was the only day off I had from the theatre tour I was part of at the same time). The idea of auntie netta on stage came from the artistic director of Tamasha theatre company, Kristine Landon-Smith. She and her team had enjoyed the sketches and felt their could be a future for her on stage. They were have a new writing event last December and asked me to submit a piece for this. So to cut a long story short, I am rambling, no? I performed an excerpt of the piece at the Hampstead Theatre and from there Tamasha in collaboration with the Battersea Arts Centre produced the show that went on in May.
The character of auntie netta has stayed the same, but to create the intensity of the 3-minute sketches in a 30-minute show would have left me a heap on the floor and also I don’t think that style would have worked for the stage. She is still a mad hatter, but I think a more real, believable person! I think after working with the director, Amit Sharma, what we wanted was a more human, real auntie netta. And what I wanted to achieve from the script was not just a bunch of comedy gags, but rather to use this opportunity to express issues that have been of great interest to me since coming to London in the past 2 years. Apart from performing I also have been working in the area of theatre development and when I first got here I worked with young adult refugees through Pan Centre for intercutlural arts. It was a real learning curve for me as well as them, hearing their stories of seeking asylum here in the UK and the difficulties etc and I think this is where my inspiration came from to write a piece about a little old auntie who has to seek asylum and her journey. One of the biggest challenges was that I still wanted to keep her funny and mad and at the same time have her tell her story. I think it worked, people laughed and cried together with her, which as a performer was a pretty special experience.
VVG: Can you talk about the experience of being on stage as opposed to making films? With Netta, how much of the production have you personally been doing? How did this change, or not, for the stage?
NH: Both the medium of film and theatre are amazing:) My background was the theatre starting from when I was a shy retiring 6-year-old who didn’t talk much, so my mum sent me to ‘Aunty Nalini’s drama club’ down Kynsey Terrace in Sri Lanka…I loved that so much, being able to jump into various characters etc. And from then when I moved to the UK I became a member of the National Youth Theatre…. On stage it is live in the moment…. in this last tour I did of a new British Asian play by Rani Moorthy, a Handful of Henna, [I learned] that when you do a 5-month-tour the performance changes, evolves, and also can depend on the audience too. It is a different experience in film and I love it equally if not more…the challenge of shooting out of sequence, the long hours of waiting around and preparing for the role is pretty similiar; it is just different in the execution of it.
For the sketches it has been pretty much homegrown and with the theatre piece I have had a lot of support from Tamasha and Battersea Arts Centre gave me an ‘actor/writer residency’ where I was able to develop my piece in my own space.
VVG: Can you tell us a little bit about your collaboration with D’Lo?
NH: First of all D’Lo is my hero! The learning experience was phenomenal and as a performer D’Lo is a hugely giving human being! I would love to get the chance to do more work with D’Lo, but now with being like super-famous and doing all the red carpets etc, not sure whether D’Lo will have time for little auntie netta!
VVG: What’s next for netta?
NH:Well, a comedy producer came to see auntie netta, Holiday for Asylum and invited me to compete in this competition called Funny Women…so auntie netta forayed into her first stand-up gig last week and lets see where that takes her. But I am also working on a small idea for a tv show and hoping and praying that will take off:
VVG: [What's next] for you?
NH: For me in the comedy side of thingsI have so many characters waiting to jump out and perform I would love a platform to do a series of sketches. But otherwise there are few films in the pipeline