Sacha And The History Boys
The History Boys, the Broadway show that won the most Tony Awards this season and actually tied the record for most wins for a play set by the original production of Death of a Salesman, was the big hit this season. It’s also proved very lucky for Sacha Dhawan, a young South Asian actor from London. He’s played the role of in The History Boys in all its avatars – it’s been a play, a radio play and a movie.
“The play’s been going on for over two and a half years now and I’ve been with it from the beginning,” says Dhawan, who co-starred in the original as well as the regional touring play. “Originally we didn’t expect it to be as successful as it has become.” Dhawan has traveled all over the world with the play, which has shown in the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Australia and the United States. The play can be seen on Broadway till October and the movie will be released in the UK in November.
A Manchester boy, Dhawan has been acting since he was a kid in television and film. His parents are originally from the Punjab, and he still values those cultural ties: “My background is a large part of my life especially since I’m away from home a lot. You miss some of the traditions when you’re busy, but you need them because that’s what grounds you.”
Was it difficult breaking into theater, being Asian? He says, “It can be difficult, but I think the industry was wanting more people from different ethnic minorities. Yet the roles they were writing were not real, they were very stereotyped. Things have changed in 2006. There are a lot more actors of Asian background coming in and there are a lot more writers who are respecting the background these actors come from as well.”
The History Boys is his first major role and is special, because it is not written for an ethnic character and could have been played by anyone. He finds that usually writers in creating ethnic characters give them a lot of cultural baggage, but in this play he is just one of eight boys, an 18 year old trying to get into Oxford. “That’s what we need to be doing more of. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what background you come from, we’re all very similar really.”
Does that happen often or does he still find himself running up against that ethnic block? “It’s still there. I’m still fighting against it. That’s why I’m in the industry really. I want to be seen as an artiste. That’s what my job is, not just as an Asian face.”