Mummy, what did you want to be when you grew up?’ - a question Tahira Dar tries to answer in her new solo show ‘Unpopular Culture’ - returning to Camden People’s Theatre as a work-in-progress on 28th & 29th November, after being part of our 2022 Seed Commission scheme.
I write this as a little thank you to my daughters, aged 3 and 6. I know what you're thinking... they can barely read.
However this is a message for the future them - and also a way for them to remember this version of their Mum and look back on when she was taking some chances. Who knows if I will continue to as time goes by?
But yes, thank you for bringing me out of my comfort zone since the moment you were born. Or actually even before that - from the moment those heartbeats started, the very second those sparks of life began. All comfort zone barriers and walls were broken down at that moment, whether I knew it or not.
Some of those barriers naturally get re-formed and each day my children test them with little hammers, smashing them down for me at times when I don't have the courage or the strength to smash them myself.
What is she on about, you wonder, as you read this blog post?
Let me start again.
You see - despite me being a ‘performer’ on all of my web links and any theatre funding application forms, you may be surprised to know that I don't love being the centre of attention. In fact, in real life I quite like to keep my back to the wall, observe and be aware that knowledge speaks while wisdom listens.
And nothing has made me have to re-think that more than my daughters. At every opportunity, they have made enough public noise to make people turn around and look, when all I wanted was to scurry away - whether it’s during a meltdown in the cereal aisle at the supermarket or throwing their dinner on the floor in a restaurant. Over the years they have forced me into the (rather unglamorous) spotlight and had me raise my voice in enclosed spaces when all I really wanted to do was run and hide.
Having children has literally yanked me away from any kind of comfort blanket I was under - and while the winter-loving version of me wants nothing more than to stay cosy and close my eyes - I admit that them dragging me out of bed (sometimes literally) actually does me some good.
I always had a voice - but speaking for them instead of myself makes me speak louder, sit up straighter, stand taller and keep my head up higher. I don’t represent just myself anymore, I’m always representing them - and this has allowed me to think and react differently.
And that’s where this solo show comes in. The fear, self-doubt, and various bouts of imposter syndrome all remain present, but here I am - poking my head through the little gap in the theatrical curtain.
It started as a way to show the kids that we can all follow our dreams, and that we can be who we want to be. And then I had to pause and really look inward - had I proven that in my own life? Had I followed my own dreams? There definitely were / are a few that I’d left behind. I was then tasked with looking back on what had hindered me - was it me, my own fears, the society I found myself raised in - or all of those things?
How had the cultures that surrounded me affected my choices?
‘Unpopular Culture’ was born from these questions, and has raised many more, including thinking of my own parents' dreams - and the privilege I have in even saying mine out loud.
The show has given me another baby, that again is pushing me back out front and centre when sometimes I just want to stay backstage. I hope, if my girls read this one day, they know they can do anything they put their minds to. It’s so cliche, I know, but it really is true.
It’s something I want our children to learn from the start, and for us as adults, to always remember.
Tuesday 28th - Wednesday 29th November at 9pm
Tickets £8 - work-in-progress