Despite already enjoying a varied and successful acting career, Nicholas Prasad admits his new role has come as something of a challenge. The actor is currently touring the country in Miss Meena and the Masala Queens, a play, which is about Asian drag queens, writes Nicky Sweetland.
“It’s exploring the world of a Birmingham drag club, which is in decline.” Nicholas tells me when I meet him before a show at Greenwich Theatre.
“The owner, Miss Meena, has hit the booze and it’s losing business”
The play is from the producers of the hit shows Laila – The Musical, The Deranged Marriage & Happy Birthday Sunita and features some classic songs from Bollywood as well as traditional Indian melodies, lip synced with plenty of glitter and glamour.
Nicholas plays a young man from a broken home who is struggling to find his place in the world until he stumbles upon Miss Meena’s club.
“He’s permanently in limbo, he’s having an identity crisis. He’s sort of stuck in the middle, he’s lost and he doesn’t know how to anchor himself and how to identify himself.”
It’s a story many in the Asian LGBT community can identify with, while homophobia and tolerance are still rife within the conservative culture.
“We dip into the world of the LGBT community, the world of drag queens and also the stigma attached to it.” Nicholas tells me, “We’ve seen the commercial side more recently in Western Society with RuPaul’s Drag Race, but with this we are also seeing the Asian community in Britain and the two worlds colliding.”
Nicholas’ character, Shaan, finds sanctuary within the venue and in turn rejuvenates both the club’s fortunes and those of its owner.
“The character follows a journey from innocence to experience”
It’s not just the important message of tolerance and acceptance behind the show that has been tricky for Nicholas to get to grips with however. The play marks his first ever drag appearance and he’s had to learn very quickly about the art form.
From makeup to wigs, walking in heels and the decision to tuck or not tuck (the answer was not tuck for those of you who are interested!), it has been a baptism of fire for the young performer.
“It’s all new to me. It’s entirely my first foray into it and it’s not something you can just dip into. It’s a whole world and it’s a craft.” Nicholas explained, “I’ve basically had to undo 28 years of being a bloke.”
The cast was given lessons in how to apply their makeup by artists in Carnaby Street to ensure they got an authentic look. It’s been an enlightening experience for Nicholas who says, “These are the types of challenges and opportunities that you can relish.”
The new play has been created in consultation with the LGBT community and seeks to promote and uncover the untold stories of men who choose a female persona by night.
“It’s about an identity; you take on this personality. If someone is lost and they don’t know what to do, they can take on a semi pseudonym and are able to express themselves and be who they are.”
Miss Meena and the Masala Queens is at the Theatre Royal Windsor until 3 June and then NST Campus Southampton from 6-10 June before it completes its tour at the West Yorkshire Playhouse from 13-17 June.