UKIP drama star on stage

Priyanga Burford (Dr Lorna James) in The Effect at the Crucible Studio.  Credit Johan Persson.jpg
Priyanga Burford (Dr Lorna James) in The Effect at the Crucible Studio. Credit Johan Persson.jpg
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Actress Priyanga Burford, who is appearing on stage in Sheffield this month, was recently on TV as a new UKIP MP.

Priyanga starred in the Channel 4 mockumentary UKIP: The First 100 Days, which was shown ahead of the election.

It speculates on what a UKIP government would be like and Priyanga played Deepa Kaur, who got elected as an MP.

Deepa is seen struggling with its politics as Nigel Farage’s government becomes increasingly hardline, especially towards immigrants.

The show mixed drama with real-life footage, including of a demonstration held in Doncaster outside UKIP’s annual conference last year. 
Real-life protesters, some from Sheffield, were interviewed.

Priyanga said: “I’m not a UKIP supporter but that process of having to do the amount of research we did, not just about UKIP itself but also about the life of an MP, was incredibly interesting and informative.”

She said that UKIP attracts people who feel disconnected from politics. “As they see it, the people who are supposed to be serving them aren’t serving them. We really got hold of that.

“Deepa was a character who genuinely wanted to serve her community and she had grown up in the place.

“We improvised with a lot of the public just on the street, which was really exciting as an actor. I really enjoyed it as you just have to respond at whatever people are throwing at you.”

Priyanga said that the response to the show had been “overall really positive. Whatever you think about UKIP, the great thing is that they could make that programme and show it on mainstream TV and provoke a massive debate.”

In The Effect, Priyanga plays Dr Lorna James, a psychiatrist who is conducting a drugs trial into a new anti-depressant.

At the centre of the play is a love affair between Tristan and Connie, who are both patients taking part in the trial.

Priyanga said: “It’s brilliantly written, this play, because it manages to deal with some really huge questions about life, who we are and eternity through a really witty, dark and warm love story.

“It’s the best sort of thought-provoking theatre that really gives you something to think about but it isn’t a heavy kind of play. The writer Lucy Prebble has such a gentle touch and it’s really human.”

She said her character is “bright and clever and attempting to be objective but not able to put aside her own prejudices. It’s fun dealing with those complexities as an actor.”

Priyanga feels it’s healthy for a play to look at mental health: “I know people who have been through depression. Most people have people around them with mental health issues.

“I also think most people in their lifetime are affected by some kind of mental health problem, whether it is their own or someone they love or are close to. By talking about it the shame’s taken out of it.”

The actors visited a drug trial unit and met a clinical psychiatrist.

Priyanga said: “He told us what it’s like working in the NHS and dealing with people and the spectrum of what types of people you most see and the hours they work and how tired the staff get.”

The Effect is at the Crucible Studio from next Thursday to July 18. Box office: 0114 249 6000 or www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk