Hardial S. Rai

I have been involved in the diverse arts sector in the UK for almost four decades, developing, innovating and pioneering arts activity as producer, director, writer, dramaturg, but mainly someone who has worked with artists to make their thing happen and hopefully get someone to see it. Equally, I have reached out to audiences in a strategic way to get them to see beyond what they want to see.

From commissioning and producing large scale outdoor spectacles like Macbeth: Stage of Blood on the River Thames for LIFT (1997) “the most spectacular spectacle this year” (The Guardian), to groundbreaking productions such as Dogs of Desire in an underground car park to developing and leading the highly acclaimed pioneering Asian comedy strand– One Nation (from 1985 -99), the experience has included being the first Asian arts programmer/curator attached to an arts building in the country – Watermans (London), where I relished the challenge of turning it into a flagship venue and producer for Asian arts – consequently described by the BBC “has introduced more Asian arts into the mainstream than anybody else.”   Most recently I’ve produced national & international (incl Edinburgh Fringe) tours for Amina Khayyam Dance Company (2013-18) and for a Strategic Touring (ACE) project for zeroplus Theatre (2015-18). In total I have delivered over 175 projects of all scales.

My work is best described as an approach to reach outside the mainstream – to find that, that is being disenfranchised and give it platform: it is engaging with voices and practice that may approach conventional artistic practice in an unconventional way or add new perspectives that then serve its industry.

Selection of work listed below. 

Producer/Dramaturg – Theatre

  • Bad Company by Parv Bancil (1994) – a play that foresaw the rise of the far right in Europe. /Watermans
  • Ungrateful Dead by Parv Bancil (1995) – Directed by Hardial Rai – a Time Out Critics Choice – set against the backdrop of Asian gang culture and male honour. ACE national tour
  • Not Just An Asian Babeby Parminder Sekhon and Shakila Maan (1996) – set in an inner-city brothel documenting grooming of young women and men. Watermans & Etcetra Theatre (Camden)
  • Arrange That Marriage – (1996 -99) Sketch based comedy.  Over 100 shows /National Tour
  • Kali Salwar – adapted by Parminder Sekhon from Saadat Hassan Manto.  First Asian language (Punjabi) play funded by ACE for National Tour.
  • Papa Was a Bus Conductor by Parv Bancil (2000/01) – a Time Out Critic Choice satire, which Benedict Nightangle described in the Times – “Ortonesque glee in demolishing sub continental taboos” ACE National Tour/Edinburgh Fringe
  • Punjabi Kalamunch (1996 -1999) – Desi Mundah, Sarfoshi, Kurri da Kasoor x 3 plays in Punjabi from Asian Theatre Initiative
  • Shivam Theatre 1996 -1999) – Pappa Third Wedding, Lottery Lottery, – x 2 plays in Gujarati from Asian Theatre Initiative
  • Bollywood or Bust.. Innit (1999) – “awesome.. hard hitting and more satirical than TV’s Goodness Gracious Me” – The Guardian. / ACE national tour. 

Producer/Dramaturg – Dance-Theatre

  • Find Me Amongst the Black (2007) – a Southbank commission choreographed by Darshan Singh Bhuller – a dance-theatre accounting the Birmingham communal riots of 2006. “This is a slick production” The Telegraph.  Cited by ACE London Chief Exec in keynote speech –ACE national tour
  • Yerma (2013-16) –  Choreographed by Amina Khayyam (2013-16) – 50 performance, national/international tour (9 x 4* reviews) “an intense and accomplished demonstration of the power of movement-based theatre to tell stories” Total Theatre
  • A Thousand Faces – (2014 -2019) Choreographed by Amina Khayyam exploring violence against women – national/international tour
  • Slut – (2017 ) –  Choreographed by Amina Khayyam “…show is delivered with memorable pain and passion by a company who clearly care very deeply about the tale they tell” – Joyce McMillan /Scotsman. Edinburgh Fringe
  • ONE – (2013-2022)  Choreographed by Amina Khayyam over 20 shows  – “revolutionary…has moved the form forward” PULSE

Commissioner /Producer – Multi-disciplinary

  • Dogs of Desire – (1996)- In the underground car park of Watermans exploring sexuality under religious dogma – featuring Aziz Mian, Fund-Da-Mental, Ravinder Gill
  • Macbeth – Stage of Blood (1997) Forum Theatre of Manipur for LIFT (1997)“the most spectacular spectacle this year” (The Guardian), on the River Thames highlighting Manipur’s independence struggle with the India Govt.
  • Untouchables (1998) – A gallery imagined cross-form adaptation of the classic Bhavni Bavai
  • The Hum in My Heart – (2020) AKDC site immersive work taking over x6 spaces at Luton Hat Factory exploring mental health

Festival Director/curator

  • These Two Brown Feet(1998/99/2000) – Curator/Director of seasons of dance emerging from the British Asian experience.
  • Sweet Like Burfi (2000) – Co-Curator/Director of the first ever UK south Asian Gay and Lesbian Arts Festival.
  • Asian Drama Festival (1994/95/96) featuring international and UK emerging work.
  • UK Gharana – (2010/11) a season showcasing how UK is shaping Indian classical dance and music to its own ‘style’. Featuring leading UK artists – Nahid Siddique, Abhay Shankar, Amina Khayyam, Sonia Sabri.
  • Artta / Children’s Theatre Season – 2016/17 West London venues  featuring new work
  • Storyland Festival  A biennale Storytelling Festival in West London featuring local and national storytellers. 

Writer /Producer

  • The Maharajah & Kohinoor – zeroPlus Theatre /Touring since 2008 / over 175 shows “It is subject matter which the writer has beautifully crafted into a story.”  International /National Tour
  • All Our Heroes(2015 ) zeroPlus Theatre /over 50 showsexplores the stories and perspectives of men from the Indian sub-continent who left their homes and families to fight for the British Raj / National Tour
  • My Grandad & I.. zeroPlus Theatre / Touring since 2018 /over 25 performances /exploring faith based symbolism in a school / National Tour
  • Agent (2016) – a gritty multi-disciplinary theatre piece about human trafficking from the Indian sub-continent using verbatim accounts/Regional Tour

Creative Director

  • The zerOclassikal Project (2013 to present) –(www.zeroclassikal.org.uk)   Commissioned 12 new south Asian classical music work – touring to x6 outside London venues, Showcased 48 new artists