Lolita Chakrabarti speaks to CF’s Sheena Bhattessa for the latest instalment of 12 Journeys With….
Actor and writer Lolita Chakrabarti has been working in the performing arts, both on stage and on screen, for over 30 years. A kismet moment at the the age of six, playing an old lady at school assembly, confirmed that performing was something which she very much enjoyed doing. Growing up in Birmingham, trips to the cinema and theatre were not something that you “easily did”. Her first theatre trip was organised by her school, visiting Midland’s Art Centre at age 13. Amongst the Birmingham Youth Theatre cast was one Adrian Lester – Chakrabarti’s now husband. Following the school theatre trip, attendees were asked to write a review of the play – she “did give him a good review”.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THIS WEEK’S EPISODE
In Episode Nine, Season Three, Lolita Chakrabarti joins Sheena Bhattessa to discuss her 30+ year career in the arts, working as a writer and an actor.
Tracing her route from RADA to the West End, here, Chakrabarti talks about acting instinctively, expounds on the benefits of working in the same field as your partner, and shares her thoughts on the future of theatre post-pandemic.
Chakrabarti would go on to attend RADA, encouraged by her school drama teacher, Ms. Stack. Two years after graduating from RADA, at the age of 22, she was cast in esteemed Canadian Director, Robert Lepage’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the National Theatre. Work remained steady for the actor, but to counter “restlessness” when there were gaps between acting jobs, Chakrabarti decided to try her hand at writing. Noting that it “took a long time to admit I was a writer”, her first big writing break came with Red Velvet. First presented in 2012 at The Tricycle Theatre (now known as the Kiln Theatre), the play was about the 19th-century African-American actor, Ira Aldridge.
More recently, Chakrabarti took on the mammoth task of adapting Yann Martel’s Life of Pi for the stage – currently showing at Wyndham’s Theatre. Over lockdown, she also wrote Hymn, a “play about two men in their fifties who meet for the first time at a funeral”. It’s “about falling in love in friendship and family”. “It took a year in all; from the moment it was pitched to the moment it was on”. It’s the “fastest thing I’ve ever done”. Presented at the Almeida Theatre, rehearsals started Christmas of 2020, with the aim of performing to a socially distanced audience. However, due to lockdown, in early 2021 live streaming was the medium in which Hymn would initially be presented to the world (though a three-week run in the flesh did follow later that year).
Speaking on theatre’s current state, Chakrabarti “salute[s] every theatre company and building up and down the country who have been trying. Trying, and succeeding, but having to deal with the fall out of it.” To listen to this episode in full, follow the links below.
Feature image: central photo by Johan Persson.