Thinking big with Vijay Patel

Portrait of Vijay Patel © Holly Revell

Performance artist Vijay Patel made a guest appearance at last week’s digital drama club for older LGBTQ+ people to help participants think about how they could tell their stories and consider their access requirements when writing and performing.

Vijay has extensive experience of transforming his own lived experiences into autobiographical / political art. He developed his debut solo show, Pull the Trigger, in 2015, from some of his experiences of growing up working in the family newsagents, in order to explore queerness, work, family and migration. (Vijay was touring the show again earlier this year, when the UK lockdown forced the cancellation of the remaining performances.) 

His follow-up show, Sometimes I Leave, was developed from some of his experiences with Asperger’s syndrome over the past 20 years. The show incorporates theatre, performance, video and audience participation to stage some of the barriers, violence and exclusions created by neurotypically-designed social institutions.

Vijay set three writing tasks in the session, which everyone completed, including Vijay and co-host Vicky Olusanya:

1 Create a title + biog / copy for your new autobiographical show. Think big, if you had a massive funding pot.

2 Think about an object that might be in this show. How might you use the object? How might it just sit on stage as a symbol to represent something?

3 How can you take care of yourself when making / performing autobiographical work? List some self-care strategies, ways to create boundaries for yourself, think about what you need.

Vijay (bottom right) and Vicky (top row, centre) co-hosting the workshop

All the participants then shared their ideas in the second half of the session.

“I found the floodgates opened – I guess that means I’ve got a lot of stuff bottled up and the cork is ready to pop!” one person said.

“I really enjoyed the structure and the focus of the exercise and hearing how everyone had fulfilled it, I found that really exciting,” said another.

“I appreciate having the opportunity to do what we just did in a safe space and feeling comfortable with the people here – even though I haven’t met everyone – because part of what we did is not something I normally talk about,” commented a third.

Vijay enjoyed helping everyone unlock their ideas. “There were so many creative responses – there are all these unexpected things that happen during a workshop, which I love about doing this kind of stuff,” he said. 

And he may even have planted a seed that will bear fruit for his own work. “I was doing the tasks as well, which maybe I’ll develop later on – so maybe this is the start of a new solo show in lockdown or beyond!” he said.

• Follow Vijay on social media: Twitter and on Instagram

We are able to bring artists like Vijay and Vicky to our weekly digital drama club for for older LGBTQ+ people thanks to the support of Arts Council England, for which we are very grateful.

In our weekly workshops, we share stories, play improv games, identify lessons from work by queer dramatists, write about our experiences and hone our performance skills. If you would like to know more, please email our participation producer, Daniel. No writing or performing experience is necessary!