Popular British Asian theatre play Happy Birthday Sunita has returned with a brand-new cast for another UK tour.
The Rifco production, written by Harvey Virdi, is a comedy about a dysfunctional family, whose future is changed forever at an explosive surprise 40th birthday party.
Bhawna Bhawsar has taken on the title role of birthday girl Sunita and adds to her impressive projects that have included Eastenders, Emmerdale, The Undeclared War, Doctors, and Casualty on TV, along with stage credits like The Lovely Bones.
Eastern Eye caught up with the versatile British actress to discuss the new production, theatre, acting, her dream role, and more.
What do you believe first connected you to acting?
It was my drama teacher at secondary school in Leicester. I went on to become a founder member of Hathi Productions.
Which of your projects has been closest to your heart?
I worked on a theatre project with Amnesty International about survivors of domestic violence. Another (memorable) theatre project was based on true testimonials of people who experienced the Partition first hand and their family stories.
How does it feel to be joining an already successful play?
They are big shoes to fill. It was a comedy hit and had a brilliantly talented cast.
Tell us about the story and character you play?
Sunita is a complex character. Largely misunderstood, she is a straight-talking intelligent woman affected by life events. The story is based around the evening of her birthday party and the truths that unfold.
Do you have a favourite moment or scene in the play?
(Smiles) Her moment of realisation and acceptance. I can’t give too much away.
Who are you hoping connects with this play?
This play covers universal themes that will surely resonate with a lot of people regardless of their background, age, heritage, faith and value systems. It is intergenerational.
How would you explain your feeling being on stage?
Alive. Vulnerable. Overjoyed. I’m excited to perform in front of a live audience, especially after the pandemic. It’s real time action and the reactions are instant, which I love and have terribly missed.
What is it like working with an established theatre company like Rifco?
It doesn’t feel like work. It feels like a collaboration, and creative exchange. I am privileged to have a small part in Rifco’s legacy. The future is bright for Rifco.
What would you say inspires you as an actress?
Observing and capturing real people in daily life – their joys, challenges, habits, and emotions. Being moved by seeing meaningful work, hearing untold stories and voices, watching and dissecting comedy, movement, dance, and music. This list goes on.
Do you have a dream role?
My dream roles include a DCI type of character in a police drama or being part of a comedy like Motherland. Also, an action, adventure, martial arts type role.
Why should we come and watch this theatre play?
Because Happy Birthday Sunita is like a bhel puri mix. It encapsulates sweet, sour, tart, spicy, salty notes with a dose of comedy, so prepare for a flavour explosion in a true theatre experience style.
Happy Birthday Sunita is on a UK tour, with performances at Queens Theatre, Hornchurch (next Tuesday, 23, to next Saturday, 27), Theatre Royal Windsor (May 29-June 3), Royal & Derngate Northampton (June 6-10), Leeds Playhouse (June 13-17), Warwick Arts Centre (June 20- 24), New Wolsey, Ipswich (June 28-July 1) and New Theatre Peterborough (July 3-5). www.rifcotheatre.com