Ishy Din’s new razor-sharp drama Approaching Empty comes to the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch from Tuesday, April 2, to Saturday, April 6, as part of a national UK tour.

In a scruffy minicab office, Mansha decides it’s time to create his own destiny and offers to buy a business from his lifelong friend Raf. As the realities of the state of the business slowly unravel, these two best friends must confront the difficulties of going into business with those closest to them.

Set in North East England, this compelling drama lays bare the everyday struggles of a post-industrial age where manual labour is no longer plentiful.

We sat down with award-winning playwright Ishy Din to find out more...

What’s your new play, Approaching Empty, about?

It’s about two lifelong friends and a business deal. Unsurprisingly, things don’t go well for them. It’s an examination of post-industrial northern towns, Asian communities and the male Asian experience.

How did you come up with the idea?

I had the title, Approaching Empty, because when I was trying to keep the wolves from the door I did a bit of cabbing. The operator would ask us, “Where are you?” and, if you were nearly finished, you would say “I’m approaching empty”. I thought it was a great phrase.

How much of this play is fed by your cabbing experience?

I think it gives an authenticity to that world. It all unfolds in this dingy cab office somewhere up north. That, I knew really well. The coffee, the dartboard, the endless TV. Sitting around waiting for a job, Tuesday night, 1 o’clock in the morning in Middlesbrough, feeling the whole place is shut down.

It’s set at the time of Margaret Thatcher’s death. Why was that important?

I can trace a line back to the 1980s from today. When people say the phrase ‘working class’ the image that comes to mind is one of hobnail boots and flatcaps, but since the 1950s the working classes have been really multicultural. People came from all over the world. For the Asian community, our raison d’etre were the factories. Margaret Thatcher closed them down. For some people it was the opportunity they needed and they went off and became successful. But for many people, it was a devastating blow.

I think, in some ways, we haven’t recovered from that. We became isolated within our own communities. Over the years that’s grown because, especially up north, it feels like we’ve been left behind.

Do you think enough is done to bring working class and Asian communities into the theatre?

I think there’s a great will now to open up the types of stories being told and the different voices being heard. But I think we need to demystify theatre.

If people don’t come to a theatre, it’s theatre’s obligation to go to the people. We need to get out more into social clubs, into community centres, into churches, and say: “We tell stories, come and tell us yours”, and within that we will find incredible writers and directors.

In a world where you can get entertainment ‘on demand’, what makes theatre special?

It’s amazing. You sit there together and you see this thing unfolding in front of you. There’s something beautiful about all those characters going through their journeys right there in front of you. It’s different every night; it has a different energy. It’s a shared experience, so we laugh together, we gasp together and we leave together talking about what we just experienced.

A Sign Language Interpreted performance will take place on Wednesday, April 3, at 7.30pm.

Queen’s Theatre, Billet Lane, Hornchurch, RM11 1QT, Tuesday, April 2, to Saturday, April 6. Details: 01708 443333