Why We Tell The Story: In Conversation with Varun Raj

After seeing Mushy: Lyrically Speaking at the Arcola Theatre this month, I became fascinated by Mushy’s story from Educating Yorkshire and watched lots of clips of him on YouTube (here, here and here). It’s a story that you don’t often see on stage and although the tour has now ended, I sincerely hope that it has a life beyond its run. Not just so that I can see it again, but so that more people get the chance to learn about Mushy and also see the stories of diverse communities portrayed on stage.

I had a few questions for the lead actor, Varun Raj, and he was kind enough to answer them. Find out what he had to say below!

Name: Varun Raj

Role: Actor

Favourite Show/Play: My favourite show is Phantom. I went to see it on Broadway when I was young and loved it!

Favourite Part About the Theatre: The way you have to adapt every night. Each performance you continue to find something different in the character which is exciting! 

Q: Can you tell us what ‘Mushy: Lyrically Speaking’ is all about?

A: ‘Mushy: Lyrically Speaking’ is about a boy finding his voice literally and figuratively, through the fame and expectation he’s found when a TV clip goes viral.

Q: Many will know Mushy’s name after seeing the viral YouTube clip of him from Educating Yorkshire. What was it like preparing to perform a real person who is recognised by many, particularly someone who has a stammer?

A: It was actually very interesting. There is so much material on Mushy on YouTube that I was able to really get an accurate read on the character as well as the man. Not only that but Mushy himself has been very accommodating to any questions that I might’ve had about him and his stammer.

Mushy : Lyrically Speaking Production Photos
Photo Credit: The Other Richard

Q: People may be expecting a story that just focuses on Mushy’s stammer but there’s so much more to it such as an insight into British Asian culture which isn’t often well represented on stage. Was there anything in particular which drew you to this role?

A: The dynamic between Mushy and his mother, Ammi is something that really touched me. It’s a dynamic which is rather common in Asian families but never truly explored on stage so I was excited to give that relationship a voice.

Q: There are many fun break out music numbers in the show – was there a song in particular that’s been the most fun to develop during rehearsals and perform?

‘Walk like an Ostrich’ is my favourite number. Mainly due to the Ostrich move. It took a little bit of time to find it but once I did I was able to play up to it a lot more.

Mushy : Lyrically Speaking Production Photos
Photo Credit: ©The Other Richard

Q: You seem perfectly suited to this role, but if you could play any other part in any theatre production (past or present) what would it be and why?

That’s very kind of you to say. I’d love to be the first Asian Phantom or a role in Hamilton, John Lauren’s/Phillip Hamilton would be a dream!

Thanks for reading! And a huge thank you to Varun for the interview.

Cover Photo Credit: Brandon Bishop

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