Nikhil Parmar’s acclaimed debut play Invisible returns to London’s Bush Theatre for a limited run before transferring to New York as part of the 2023 Brits Off Broadway festival. The provocative one-man show is a darkly comic tour-de-force in which an underemployed actor (and overemployed dealer) takes drastic steps to get noticed. I fire off some questions for Nikhil to explain what audiences can expect, and he outlines some exciting new writing and acting projects in the pipeline for film and TV.

Mark: How would you summarise the show and its themes?

Nikhil: Set in a world in which Islamic fundamentalism no longer exists, Invisible is a one-man show that tells the story of Zayan, a British-Indian actor who starts to think that since white people stopped seeing brown people as The Threat, they stopped seeing them at all. Unable to get acting work because brown actors are no longer being employed to play terrorist parts (the only ones he could ever get), and amid several personal crises where he feels misunderstood and unseen, Zayan comes to the conclusion that life was better for brown people when everyone thought they were terrorists. So he comes up with a radical solution, which goes about as well as you might expect.

In what ways did the script and your performance evolve during rehearsals and/or during Invisible’s first run, and can repeat audiences expect any further changes?

For the show’s first run last year, we were constantly rewriting from the first day of rehearsal until hours before our opening night. Roughly speaking the play can be divided into two sections, one of which is very comedic, and the other of which quickly descends into something more dramatic and tragic, so figuring out how to balance that and making sure we’d planted seeds in the first half so the second half felt earned and inevitable was really important, and required a lot of fine-tuning. The whole Bush team, especially our dramaturg Deirdre O’Halloran, and my director Georgia Green, were integral in that, because we all knew it was quite an ambitious story to tell in just an hour, while keeping it funny and pacey. Performance-wise, it was much of the same – a big thing I learned after our first few shows was that in order for the second half to work on an emotional level, the seemingly purely comedic beats in the first half needed to be grounded in Zayan’s pain and discomfort, while never losing the funniness. I think this year it’ll just be about keeping all those lessons in mind, and not to chase the laughs at the expense of the emotional gut-punch we want by the end.

In what ways does Georgia Green’s direction help mould your performance and make the most of the studio space?

Zayan as a character is extremely energetic and at times even manic, so with Georgia one key thing we worked on was how to modulate the energy so the audience is engaged and drawn in, but not overwhelmed, which would have the opposite effect. Georgia was also always keen to encourage ambitious lighting, sound and set design choices, beautifully designed by Laura Howard, Bella Kear, and Georgia Wilmot, respectively, so that the play feels as big and expansive and bold as its themes, despite its cosy studio setting. I was also very lucky to work with a movement director, Diane Alison-Mitchell, who with Georgia helped me build little physical nuances into each of the many (12!) characters that I play throughout the play. Oftentimes there are multiple characters all speaking very fast in one scene, so working on simple but clear and distinct mannerisms for each character was invaluable in making the scene make sense to an audience.

Amid several personal crises where he feels misunderstood and unseen, Zayan comes to the conclusion that life was better for brown people when everyone thought they were terrorists. So he comes up with a radical solution…”

Nikhil Parmar in <em>Invisible</em> at the Bush Theatre © Ali Wright

What was Ameena Hamid’s role in getting the show staged?

Ameena came on board in what can only be described as the literal nick of time. We had been offered a place in 2023’s Brits Off Broadway festival but were unable to accept until we had a producer in situ, and with literally hours to go before the deadline passed, Ameena emailed saying she was interested, and suddenly Operation NYC 2023 was back on the table.

How did being involved in the Bush Theatre’s Emerging Writers’ Group help shape the show?

Working for a year with the other EWG writers and Dee O’Halloran was incredibly important in my development as a playwright. Prior to that, I never really considered writing for the stage as it just wasn’t something I knew much about. But as part of the EWG, we would write stuff to then send to the group and have our work discussed and (nicely) critiqued, allowing us the invaluable benefit of six brains instead of one, and letting us learn from the other writers’ work as we figured out what kind of theatre we wanted to make. I became a much better writer as a result of the EWG, which stood me in great stead when it came to rewriting Invisible.

Invisible started out as a TV pilot. If it made it to the screen would it remain a one-man show, or would you need to flesh out supporting characters – or even start with a clean slate?

I’ve actually been re-writing it as a TV pilot for an amazing production company over the last few months, which has been so fun and really exciting. It’s very different to the old TV pilot version and indeed fairly different to the play – some supporting characters have been cut, others have been fleshed out and altered, and new ones have been created too. Narratively, in adapting it back for TV, we quickly realised it was less about adhering to the specific plot beats of the play and more about extracting the core story and finding a plot that played to the strengths of the new medium we were creating it for.

How did the Brits Off Broadway commission come about, and what do you know about the other shows in the 2023 season?

New Diorama Theatre’s David Byrne, who co-runs Brits Off Broadway with 59E59 Theaters’ Val Day, came and saw the play on the penultimate evening. We spoke briefly afterwards and he was very kind about the play and said that he thought it could be a good fit for 2023’s BOB season. I proceeded to get extremely excited and tell everyone who would listen that we were “almost certainly going to transfer to New York”, only to then find out a few months later that I wouldn’t have to renege on that completely baseless statement/lie. I’m so excited to see the other shows, provided our schedules allow – I’ve seen Foxes when it was on in London and absolutely loved it, and all the others sound equally exciting, so I can’t wait.

Which writers and actors do you count as key influences?

Oh Christ, so many. I’ll try to be efficient. Prior warning, there is nothing niche or cool about this list of genuine household names. Writers, in no particular order: Sorkin, Mamet, Tarantino, McDonagh, Allen, Apatow, Donald Glover, Lena Dunham, Michaela Coel, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Gervais & Merchant, Pegg & Wright, Tony Gilroy. Recent inspiration shout-out is Ryan Calais Cameron – adored both his most recent plays. It would actually be embarrassing to list all the actors I love so I’m just going to say one whom I’ve always loved but recently have been thinking might be my actual favourite of all time: Matt Damon. Also De Niro and DiCaprio, obviously.

Nikhil Parmar in <em>Invisible</em> at the Bush Theatre © Ali Wright

Is it time for a brown Bond?

Maybe!! Or maybe Bond – though I love it – as an extension of the British state which neither refuses to acknowledge the havoc it has historically wreaked on brown bodies nor shows any sign of stopping its relentless terrorising thereof is an inappropriate role for a brown actor to take on, and should instead be reserved for the unmelanated? Who knows?!

What’s next for Nikhil Parmar – and for Zayan?

Writing-wise I have lots in development – I’m writing films for companies including New Regency, See-Saw, SunnyMarch and Wayward, and TV originals for Fifth Season, Element, Baby Cow, and Drama Republic. And as an actor I just wrapped a really cool British film and am off to film season 2 of Amazon’s The Rig as soon as the play closes in New York. And in August a film I did last year, Neill Blomkamp’s Gran Turismo debuts in cinemas, and what little I have seen of it thus far looks amazing. As for Zayan, both he and I are hoping he’ll be on TV screens before long!

Photography: Nikhil Parmar in Invisible at the Bush Theatre © Ali Wright

Invisible is at the Bush Theatre from 23 May to 9 June
Standard tickets from £25
More info and book
Nikhil at

The Bush Theatre is an internationally renowned champion of playwrights, discovering, nurturing and producing writers from the widest range of backgrounds, and presenting their work to the highest possible standards. Their remit is to seek out exciting new voices that tell contemporary stories with wit, style and passion, and to champion work that is both provocative and entertaining.

Brits Off Broadway 2023 continues at New York’s 59E59 Theaters to Sunday 2 July, with Invisible opening on Tuesday 13 June.
Invisible at 59E59

Mark Reynolds is a freelance editor and writer, and a founding editor of Bookanista.