Four very different individuals.
Asif Khan is a bit of a chameleon. The Pakistani actor who is a first-generation Englander from Bradford, Yorkshire is having a blast, quickly becoming synonymous with a powerful, one-person play that has become quite the hit overseas, and now landing in the United States.
“Love, Bombs and Apples,” written by Iraqi playwright Hassan Abdulrazzak is making its U.S. premiere at Golden Thread Productions in San Francisco. The one-man show explores four distinctly different characters at various moments in their lives – a Palestinian actor who slays in a performance of Hamlet, ready to cash in with some sweet love with any willing participant and a Pakistani author arrested for the content of his poorly written novel are among Abdulrazzak’s complex characters.
There is also the story of a Bradford Muslim who dreams of joining Isis while staring at Iphones all day, and a Jewish New Yorker with a pro-Israel father and a relationship with a pro-Palestinian female activist.
Khan didn’t really set out for a career as a soloist. As a student at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Abdulrazzak sought him out back in 2009, and was moved by his talents. It was a collaboration that came from a mutual admiration society.
“I loved his writing, which is political but it’s not politics rammed down your throat,” said Khan. “The piece is very character-led and extremely funny. He writes things that please, shock and surprise audiences. Along with our director Rosamunde Hutt, to bring it here to San Francisco is absolutely amazing.”
Khan has embraced the challenges of being the only actor on stage, originally premiering the show and originating the role in 2015. He understands that the audience wants to be entertained, and all the pressure of those expectations rests squarely on him. It’s a reality that was not a natural fit for him at first, but with proper pacing and staging built with his creative team, he has grown into his task as a performer who goes 90 straight minutes and no intermission.
Each of the four characters have nuances that connect Khan to the piece on personal levels. He certainly can appreciate the character of the Pakistani author, a character he probably relates to the most. As a Muslim himself, there is an authenticity and an empathy he possesses, and readily shares with the audience.
“He’s a super geeky character that wouldn’t harm a fly, but in the piece is accused of being a terrorist. It’s certainly not funny, but the situation is laughable based on who he is.”
His biggest challenge is playing his final character. While the first three characters take up one hour of the show, his performance as the Jewish New Yorker requires a stamina he doesn’t tap into at any other moment in the show.
“By the time I reach the final character, I hit around 60 minutes, and when I come on after that, I come on with a real bang, a half-hour long blast,” said Khan. “The most difficult thing is stamina – you have to stay in your energy to the very end. I step into each character with different voices, accents and characters, and I always have to hit it from the very top.”
“I had to do a lot of research and had to find out so much about the character’s political views and references to specific people, because this character is the furthest from where I am.”
After his initial reticence in diving into the solo performer genre, Khan is now thrilled to be in a play where all eyes are on him at all times. It certainly puts the pressure on him, and it’s a pressure he is now thriving with.
“As an actor, you have to be able to step into different characters and connect to the audience completely,” said Khan. “It’s a huge learning process as an actor, and now I am in a state to start the show really relaxed and able to be free.
WHAT TO KNOW IF YOU GO
Golden Thread Productions presents “Love, Bombs and Apples”
Written by Hassan Abdulrazzak
Directed by Rosamunde Hutt
Performed by Asif Khan
1695 18th Street, San Francisco, CA
Through May 6th
Running Time: 90 minutes, no intermission
Tickets range from $28 – $38
For tickets, call (415) 626-4061 or visit http://www.goldenthread.org/