The Tadpole Repertory wasn’t always a part of the plan. In fact, there was no plan at all. I was working a job when I just happened to audition for a play that my friends were putting up. The synergy we built was unique and that feeling brought me to a point of never turning back. Our team worked together for years before we decided to name ourselves. We spent all our years talking, thinking and most importantly fighting our way through different pieces and building a strong community. Tadpole came to life in 2009 as the result of a natural flow of events.
Actually, the year 2008 was a game changer for us. It really helped us lock in on what we wanted to do and more importantly what we absolutely didn’t want to do. A real eye opener was this piece we had worked on under rushed circumstances. It was show day, we had a packed house. I was mid performance, when the director comes up to the lip of the stage and says “Neel, we’ve got to stop the show”. Some audience members had taken offense to the content in the play and raised an issue with the authorities. The play halted mid-way. I walked up on stage to announce that we have to stop the show to be surprisingly met with a lot of resistance from the audience that was still seated. They fought for the play to go on. We got back on stage, resumed the play and were met with a standing ovation.
As the applause washed over us, I realised that it was less for the play and more for the audience themselves. They had fought for their right to not be censored. But as we reeled back from that experience, we thought over as to why so many people would fight to watch content that wasn’t all that great. What we realised is that they fought for their belief that the theatre is an important space and had good content that was just waiting to be discovered. We didn’t just want to put up pieces in a big space. We wanted to be the company that pushed boundaries and created something new.
We recalibrated ourselves. Came up with a show that ran every day for a week in a smaller, more intimate setting. We had decided to perform even if we were graced by an audience of three. The purpose was to move away from our last experience. To our surprise all our shows ran successfully. We had found our calling. Our focus then shifted to better our craft in similar intimate settings. It was only in 2013 where we broke from our mould to successfully stage a play in a bigger outdoor setting with a piece designed to have the audience move around and I truly believe its success was due to the kind of clarity we had with regards to where our work had reached thus far and where we wanted to push it to.
The journey with my team has given me a lot of experiences and fed into my beliefs. If I had to share something with all the theatre artists out there creating or collaborating during this lockdown it would be go find your gang. Find the people who you can bounce your ideas off. Find the people who you can trust to take the leap of faith in the dark with you. Don’t take this as a short-term project, work for that long-term goal. Don’t just take up work but strive to build a community.