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Harvey Virdi - Happy Birthday Sunita Interview

Rifco Theatre revives Harvey Virdi's sell-out comedy, Happy Birthday Sunita, with a new cast and a fresh script.

The show is touring and recently writer Kathryn saw the show at Northampton's Royal and Derngate where she described "the play filled the space with warmth, laughter and thoughts for the audience" in her review which can be read here

The show is stopping at Warwick Arts Centre from 20th - 24th June, Kathyrn spoke to writer Harvey to discuss the show in more detail.

The current tour is a revival that was first performed pre-pandemic. How much of the play had to be rewritten to make it relevant to 2023?

The current tour is revival and was originally a one-act play. It was fun to re-visit and expand. There wasn’t a huge re-write but a fresh script allowed me to revisit the relationships and a chance to explore them further. And also, to be able to make it more current, post-Brexit and Covid and think about how maybe people are evaluating what they need.

Photo by Ellie Kurttz

There are some very ‘real’ moments in the play. How much of the play is drawn from real situations and characters?

Stories we hear or read about do influence all our lives. Working out what story I want to tell and to create truthful characters is important and what they want from life and what stands in their way is the drama and maybe, the message.

What’s the best thing about touring with such a small company? 

Touring a theatre piece is always great. It gives the audience a chance to go to and support their local theatre. More people get a chance to see the show. Not everyone can travel to London and it’s great to be able to take shows to them. And audiences definitely come! And people love to see their stories on stage. Stories they can relate to.
Did all the cast speak Punjabi before rehearsals or was that an additional skillset that was learnt before/during rehearsals? 

Some members of the cast are fluent in Punjabi and some of them had to learn it as part of their rehearsal process. 

As a writer, how much involvement did you have with casting, the design and production beyond the script?

Putting on any play is a collaborative process but generally, casting is down to the Director and the Designer will be responsible for the design of the set, the costumes and the props. Anything that I feel is important I will put down in the stage directions.

Photo by Ellie Kurttz

Was the rehearsal process very structured with the script being set from day one or was it a collaborative process with the cast being involved in rewrites and changes to suit the revival?

The rehearsal process has to be structured to some extent, to make sure everything that needs to be done before technical starts has been rehearsed. But within this, there is always room for discussion around characters, blocking, choreography, costume etc. and changes can be made.
As an actor, what do you think happens to Sunita and the family after the curtain comes down? The ending is very open but did you have the conversation of ‘what happens next’?
We had a great discussion about what happens next! My favourite is the family in Marbella...

Happy Birthday Sunita plays at Warwick Arts Centre from Tuesday 20th June until Saturday 24th June. Tickets are available from

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