Living and breathing amateur theatre with Niloo-Far Khan

Niloo-Far Khan

For this months ‘Behind the Scenes in Theatre’ feature we got in touch with Niloo-Far Khan who has worked in various theatre roles. From front of house and box office to performing and directing, Niloo has built up a range of skills and knowledge in theatre, we wanted to get to know a little more.

You work front of House and you’re a performer. Which came first? How did one lead to the other?

Good question! I realised I wanted to perform on stage quite late actually, when I was 16. I joined a few Edinburgh youth theatre companies such as Scottish Music Theatre School (known as CRAFT now), Forth Children's Theatre and UK Theatre School in Glasgow. After secondary school I went to Motherwell College for a year then MGA. It was only after then that I started to work behind the scenes really, as front of house and tour guide to the Edinburgh Playhouse, and now you can find me at the box office! I absolutely love working in any role at the theatre. It is where I feel most at home!

What is the best thing about working front of house?

I think the main reason is getting to watch shows (am I allowed to say that?!). Working front of house and seeing the audience be dazzled by what's in front of them is actually so gratifying. I learn the most from watching others perform and for me this was such a great opportunity to learn while at work doing what I love. From watching at the back of the theatre, I realised that my interests lie in directing rather than being on stage. I actually directed my first show at the Church Hill in the SCDA One Act Festival and we got through to the Eastern Final Division. Front of house gives me the opportunity to talk to the patrons and see what they enjoy as well as be inspired, watching some of the very talented companies that perform at the Church Hill Theatre.

How important is front of house to performance night?

It’s going to sound cheesy, but I think front of house is crucial for the audience experience. They essentially run the night and get the audience buzzing for the show. They also assist back stage when the show needs a bit of extra time getting the auditorium set up.

Tell us more about your most recent show. 

Well at the moment I am in rehearsal with the wonderful Limelight Productions for a musical at the Alhambra Theatre in Dunfermline playing Deloris Van Cartier in Sister Act on Wednesday 12 to 16 October. The cast are absolutely fabulous and I keep getting in trouble in rehearsals for laughing because things do get quite hysterical with the nuns!!

I am also in the pre-production process of directing for Edinburgh People's Theatre. The Diary of Anne Frank by Wendy Kesselman will be on at the Church Hill from Wednesday 31 May to 3July 2017. Another cheeky plug...sorry! I chose this play because of current world politics and Anne Frank’s story is great at giving a perspective of the refugee crisis and children living in war zones. I am hoping to do something very different with the pre-theatre experience, but I won’t reveal anything just yet!

What has been your favourite role?

Funnily enough, my favourite role was playing a nun in Nunsense the Musical during the Fringe with TEMPO. I think the reason I liked it so much was because the laughs on stage were real and the audience were laughing just as hard. Every night, in almost every scene, I was struggling so hard not to break in hysterical laughter because what the nuns did was just so ridiculous... such as break out in a tap dance. To be honest, anything that makes people laugh, for me, is the best feeling and the best reward.

What is your advice to those interested in theatre or studying performance arts?

If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again! Auditioning for schools can be daunting, but really I am sure the panel that will audition you have seen it all and know exactly how you feel. So if you are auditioning, enjoy it. It requires a lot of persistence and hard work, but it’s so rewarding once you graduate. Also, there are some amazing courses now available that weren’t when I was starting out, so it’s definitely becoming more popular and dare I say acceptable as a degree which makes me very happy!.

There are also a lot of people I know who have never had any experience performing and have been very successful auditioning for prestigious schools all around the country and even professional work. Natural talent is far rarer to find, and so long as you’re willing to go the extra mile, a director will be very happy to work with you.

How important has community theatre been to your development? How important is community theatre in general to the arts scene in Edinburgh?

I think without community theatre, I would not be where I am today as I would not have had the experience or the confidence to pursue performing as a career. I really owe a lot to the companies that I worked with in my youth for helping me grow not only as a performer but also as a person. Each show I did not only tells a unique story but comes with its set of challenges and life lessons. Performing in shows is not just about being on stage, but all the friendships you make and the learnings you get with it.

Any memorable moments during your work or on stage? 

Apart from a lot of falling over, slipping about or stumbling on lines I haven’t got many appropriate stories I can share! The most recent was a runaway piano that was hoping to roll off the stage and take out the band in the middle of a scene before a big song, (this was on a raked stage, my worst nightmare). Luckily we caught it just in time! Another nightly treat was one of the cast every show was almost decapitated by the flies coming down, it was terrifying. However, all these things have made me appreciate how hard the technical crew work before, during and after the show. There really is no show without them.

It was fabulous speaking with Niloo and getting an insight into the various roles and areas of theatre that she is involved in. So much great advice and insight.