Altered Skin’s theatre project about being a working dad and engaged father hits the stage this autumn.
Shane Shambhu is Creative Director of Altered Skin, a physical theatre company based in Birmingham. He’s about to go out on tour with a new show called Fatherhood, inspired by his own experiences, so we grabbed him to talk about.
The idea for Fatherhood was conceived during the first lockdown back in 2020. At the time, my three-month-old son, wife and I happened to be locked down… in Austria! It’s where my mother-in-law lived, and we spent seven months there. Seven whole months!
During this lockdown I spent an abundance of time with my child and realised, that if it weren’t for the pandemic, I probably wouldn’t have had this time with him. Time that was so clearly helping to build an intimate bond between us. This time also allowed for reflection on my own relationship with my dad. My head began flooding with a whole series of questions around parenting, role-models, cultures, and languages, which all led me to ask one big question, “How do I navigate my role as a father in the 21st Century, as a son of immigrants and father of a mixed heritage child?” It’s this the question that led me to begin exploring a piece of theatre that has become the show Fatherhood.
My wife works full-time so we do a lot of juggling. In fact, I don’t think I’m juggling as much as I am “surviving”. Luckily, I’m self-employed which gives me flexible working patterns to some extent. So often, my working day starts after my son has gone to bed, otherwise I try and squeeze everything in between nursery runs and household chores. It’d be easier if we had parents or family nearby. So, it’s not easy with childcare, cooking, cleaning, and work commitments. Sometimes, I wish I was one of those Hindu gods with like eight arms! Even then it’s probably not enough arms!
I really wish there was more affordable childcare or even better, childcare that was subsidised by means testing. My wife and I both need to work, and the cost of childcare in England is ridiculously unfair in comparison to a lot of other European countries. I know there will be people who will feel their taxes shouldn’t pay to subsidise the care of “other people’s children”, but surely it helps more people (especially women) back into work. That’s taxable income, right?
I feel that as my son gets older, I keep battling a new set of challenges. At the time he was born I felt that paternity leave is not as valued as it should be. More recently, I feel it’s the lack of father playgroups. When I attend playgroups, I’m often the only male. Mothers can dismiss making social conversation with men and I can understand why that might be, but it can feel rather lonely. It’d be lovely to be social and model friendship building for my child.
My dad friends have said they’ve found the show completely relatable both as a dad and a son and that it was funny, moving and it made them reflect on their own relationships with their dads. In essence, they loved it, but of course they probably have to say that otherwise next time they need some ad-hoc childcare, I may not be available!
Find more information on the show here