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Edinburgh Fringe 2022 

Brown Boys Swim
Karim Khan Writer Brown Boys Swim 1.jpeg
Karim Khan

Brown Boys Swim considers two young men on the cusp of change. Karim Khan (recipient of Riz Ahmed’s Left Handed Films and Pillars Fund inaugural fellowship) examines the pressures that surround young Muslim men today in this lyrical coming-of-age tale, directed by John Hoggarth and produced by Fringe First award-winning The North Wall.

Hi Karim Khan, thank you for talking to The New Current, how have you been keeping during these strange times?

My pleasure, thanks for having me. I’ve been well – it feels as though the times remain as strange as they were, but perhaps for different reasons.


How does it feel to heading to Edinburgh Fringe with your Debut Show after everything that has happened?

It’s incredibly exciting. I can’t wait for us to finally have our show at Edinburgh. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and I can now actually tick that off my bucket list, which is amazing. I’ve never actually been to the Fringe as a viewer, so have no real preconceptions. I assume everyone is curious to see what a post-pandemic Fringe will look like, but I’m certain people will be yearning to get back to it – so I’m sure there’ll be a nice buzz!


Are there going to be any nerves ahead of your first show at The Pleasance?

Absolutely, as with everything. I love that feeling of mounting something new – rehearsing it with actors, the tech, the preview jitters, audiences coming face to face with your work – will they like it?!– there’s nothing quite like that exciting thrill, the sheer magic - and you rarely ever feel it as a writer. I can’t wait!


One of the vital aspects of Edfringe is The Royal Mile during August, have you got your shows sales patter down or are you still tweaking it?

I’m not so sure if I can call it sales patter, but I have talked about the show with so many people and have been able to introduce it a couple of nice brief sentences which isn’t always the case with my other work. But, in actually writing the play, that initial summary was super useful in clarifying what I effectively wanted to do with the play – so it’s useful in more ways than one.


Can you tell me a little bit about Brown Boys Swim, what can we expect?

Diving into my sales patter – Brown Boys Swim is about two teenage Pakistani boys, Mohsen and Kash – who teach themselves and each other how to swim, as they gear up for the biggest event in term – a pool party. It’s a coming-of-age story about fitting in and striking out. You can expect some fun and joy. The boys will take you on a real journey, and they won’t make it easy for themselves. The show might make you think about things slightly differently, and there might be a few surprises along the way too…


When you preview a show how much does it change before a major festival and do you still allow yourself some flexibility once a run has started?

This is perhaps more for the director – John. I assume that the initial previews at Edinburgh are a fantastic opportunity to see how things are working, and to see how it’s landing with the audience. But the show will be as watertight as possible before it goes.


"Theatre can often be an exclusive medium, and it is key, in my view, that we make it accessible to communities who don’t often go or feel its not for them."

Have you always had a passion for theatre?

My passion for theatre has built incrementally over the years. I didn’t go to the theatre much as a child, unless it was a school trip, some of which blew my mind. You discover the spine-tingling magic of theatre and then it never really leaves you. I even feel it now when I watch a really good show. I also remember going to this drama club on a Sunday when I was 9, and played a dwarf in Snow White, giving an Olivier-worthy performance of a lifetime. I did Drama GCSE too, and loved it. I then started writing plays while I was at uni, studying English. It’s interesting how that passion for theatre has hit me at various points, from various angles – but it’s always been there.


What has been the most interesting thing you have discovered about yourself and the theatre you want to create after making this show?

That’s a great question. The play has resonated with so many people already– but with a demographic of people whose stories aren’t often represented on stage or screen. This has reaffirmed my desire to create work for my own community so that they can see their lives and stories represented. Theatre can often be an exclusive medium, and its key, in my view, that we make it accessible to communities who don’t often go or feel it’s not for them. It’s absolutely for them. I want to make it for them.


What one word best describes your show?



In-between your show how do hope to get a chance to see other shows at the fringe?

Yes – I can’t wait to catch some shows while I’m there. It’s so exciting to see all the incredible work that’s going to Edinburgh this year. I think it’ll be a really fantastic year!


What has been the best piece of advice you have been given?

I think the best advice I’ve received has been just to enjoy it, and to remain in the present moment as much as possible – which I’ll try to abide by.


Do you have a favourite theatre quote?

I remember watching Zia Ahmed’s I Wanna be Yours, which is a play I absolutely love. It’s full of beautiful poetic moments, but the lyrical refrain - “now we’re agreed that we’re in love / we’ll have to face the lah-di-diah, / the eyewash, all of the fancy pantomime / I love you very much” has struck me ever since.


And finally, what do you hope your audiences will take away from Brown Boys Swim?

Foremost, I hope they have a really good time. I hope it makes them laugh and fills them with some joy. I hope it makes them want to talk about the show with the people they’re closest to.

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