“A Day in the Life” with Hamilton based multidisciplinary artist Radha S. Menon

What would your day look like if you were Radha S. Menon? If you weren’t basking in the sunlight of a Sicilian beach, or traversing the busy streets of Bangalore, you might be writing a play, directing a short film, or sipping wine with your pets in your living room in Hamilton.  

Radha is many things: an award-winning playwright, filmmaker, designer, performer, and arts educator. In all these roles, she frequently pushes the boundaries of what can be done, translating her relentless energy for creation into mesmerizing and daring works of art that tackle difficult subjects like the subjugation of women, patriarchy, racism, belonging, identity, and animal rights. Her range is wide, her output prolific. 

I met Radha when we both worked towards our MFA at the University of Guelph. I participated in a reading of her play Monkey Man, a brilliant satire on society’s treatment of animals. Her no-bullshit attitude towards perfecting her craft and making her own way through the industry has influenced me in my discipline towards my craft, navigating the business as an emerging writer of colour, and in transcending my own difficulties and concerns as an artist.

A recipient of the City of Hamilton Theatre Award in 2016, Radha began her career in British theatre and television and had a music-publishing contract in her early 20s. Shying away from the limelight, she launched into a playwriting career that has produced seven full-length plays, and seven short plays. Menon has had her work performed across North America and the U.K. But at the heart of it all, I know Radha to be an activist, challenging the status quo through her artistic pursuits. She works actively to improve the representation of women of colour in the industry. She established the non-profit Red Betty Theatre in 2011 to “to present the perspectives and distinct experiences of Canadian women of colour to broader and more diverse audiences, and increase access to these performances to contribute to the richness and diversity of Canadian Theatre.” 

Radha has practiced yoga for many years, a true believer of “you are what you eat”, she jests, ‘that’s why I look like a carrot’.

I look like a chicken.

Ashish Seth, writer

Radha S. Menon
I noticed this small girl, the daughter of a caretaker at an NGO office in Dharwad, North Karnataka where I began my research for the Devadasi Verbatim Project and was meeting potential interview subjects.
Radha S. Menon
My research team (from left to right) Jessica, Maya and I, all crammed into one rickshaw, you can’t see all our luggage on our laps and under our feet, moving from our first terrible accommodation to something more decent. I don’t mind rats, but I don’t like sharing my bathroom.
Radha S. Menon
This sculpture of a transsexual and transspecies god caught my attention in Karnatak University, Dharwad, on route to interview a professor about gender, caste and oppression.
Radha S. Menon
We climbed 570 steps to the hilltop of Hampi’s Anjenaya Temple, the birthplace of Hanuman, the monkey god, to capture this breathtaking sunrise. On the way down, we were accompanied by a troupe of very friend monkeys.
Radha S. Menon
Daydreaming, lying on hot rocks at the top of sunset point waiting for the end of another spectacular day in Hampi
Radha S. Menon
Taken on the last day of my India research trip after meeting women workers on the beach to set up my last Devadasi interview, three sick starving puppies came to me; animals come to me often, especially when they need help. I managed to bring these two home in a cardboard box and arranged for GAWP (Goan Animal Welfare Trust) to collect them and their other sibling from the beach.
Radha S. Menon
Back at home, collecting construction materials for Red Betty Theatre’s next production, The Hanging, a short verbatim spectacle I wrote and developed in conjunction with HAG for the April 12 James St. Art Crawl. We have a stella cast!

 

Radha S. Menon
My collection of pilfered cashew apples taken on my morning walk in Corjeum Goa, where I recently completed and arts residence at TATVA. The smell and taste of this fruit that is only available in March took me right back to childhood when I was sent to live on a farm in south India with strangers: it was bitter sweet and a bit sappy like the fruit itself.

 

What ‘hood are you in?

I live in downtown Hamilton. I moved there ten years ago in the first wave of artists leaving Toronto.

What do you do?

I’m an artist and activist.  I work designing films and educating young people in the arts.

What are you currently working on?

A short magic surrealism film, The Sail Tree  based on my play Ganga’s Ganja and a feminist stage adaptation of an ancient Indian text, The Sitayana.

Where can we find your work?

Welcome to My Underworld at Soulpepper Theatre from May 9 -25th

Fall next year, Rukmini’s Gold in Toronto, Brampton, Hamilton and Kitchener/Waterloo

Instagram: @thesailtree  Facebook: @lalbeti
redbettytheatre.org

 

 

 

Joel Levy
About Joel Levy 1566 Articles
Editor-In-Chief at Toronto Guardian. Photographer and Writer for Toronto Guardian and Joel Levy Photography