An Interview with Preeya Kalidas from School of Rock at New London Theatre

Well known for her role as Amira Masood in Eastenders as well as West End roles in Bollywood Dreams and Bend It Like Beckham, the stunning Preeya Kalidas is currently starring in School of Rock at the New London Theatre.   We caught up with her about her role and her many other talents.

You've currently returned to the West End with School of Rock.  How does it feel to be back?
Being part of an original London production is fantastic. I love being on stage and witnessing a community of strangers being transported to another world. The show is uplifting and inspiring, particularly as every day I get to see the coolest talented kids play live every night.  

You have so many strings to your bow - stage actress, soap actress, film actress, radio host, singer/songwriter...the list goes on!   Is it hard to juggle all the different facets or your career or does it somehow just all fall into place?
It keeps me busy that's for sure! Having different opportunities within the umbrella of entertainment is truly satisfying and keeps things interesting as no day is ever the same and I have the opportunity to work and meet some amazing, talented individuals which means I'm forever learning. 

You won rave reviews for originating the role of Priya in A.R. Rahman and Andrew Lloyd Webber's collaboration Bombay Dreams which opened in 2002.  How do you look back on that time and do people still say Shakalaka Baby to you?
It was a poignant time for me. It was my first leading role in the West End at a very young age so the pressure was immense, but I dived right in ,as I had been waiting for an opportunity like this and I am so grateful to have had the chance to be at the forefront of what was a groundbreaking musical, a show that represented a community that had never had a voice on a mainstream stage and also to be the first ever British Asian female to play a leading role in a musical of this calibre. The music by AR Rahman was magical and I still have people singing out "shakalaka baby!"

Last year you were also nominated for an Olivier Award for your role as Pinky in the musical adaptation of Bend It Like Beckham.  Was that a particularly proud moment?
Having been in the film then to be part of the workshops for the stage version and recreating the role of Pinky for the stage was incredible. She's a character that I loved playing 8 shows a week so to have been recognised for a prestigious Olivier Award was exhilarating. 

You're a British Asian performer in a time when we are hopefully encouraging more diversity within in the arts.  Do you feel like progress is being made?
There is definitely much more awareness that the need for diversity in the arts is integral. Britain is a wonderful melting pot of cultures and communities and everyone's voice should be heard on stage, TV and film as these are all powerful platforms to tell stories that represent everyone. 

You've charted as a soloist and collaborated with grime artist Skepta.  Can we expect any upcoming music from you in the near future?
I love music; writing, creating music, it feeds my soul. I'm putting together an EP which has been extremely cathartic. 

In the show you play Patti Di Marco, who is arguably the closest the show has to a villain.  Is it a nice change to play that kind of role and fun to sink your teeth into?
She's a woman that represents many. She wants the best for her and her boyfriend and having someone like Dewey around would be frustrating for anyone. A man who lives like a slob and doesn't pay rent?!! It's great to play a character that has the fire and defiance that she does.

Had you seen the Jack Black movie version before taking on the show?
I'd seen the film years ago but didn't watch it before taking on the show as I didn't want to be influenced by Sarah Silverman’s performance as Patty in any way, I wanted to bring my own version of the character to the stage.  

You're a London girl - what do you love the most about our capital?
I love the different pockets of London where you can experience different cultures. We live in a great city where almost anything is at your fingertips and a thriving arts community that people around the world travel to experience but we have it on our doorsteps and we shouldn't take that for granted.

School of Rock the Musical continues at the New London Theatre, currently booking to 13 January 2019

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