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2023 Season
Lyric Hammersmith Theatre presents the Royal Shakespeare Company production of

The Empress

Written by Tanika Gupta
04 - 28 Oct 2023
£15 - £44
Running time
165 minutes
Main House

It is 1887, the year Queen Victoria celebrates her Golden Jubilee.

Sixteen year old Rani Das, ayah (nursemaid) to an English family arrives at Tilbury docks after a long voyage from India, to start a new life in Britain.

On the boat, Rani befriends a lascar (sailor), an Indian politician and a royal servant destined to serve the Queen. Full of hopes and dreams of what lies ahead, they each embark on an extraordinary journey.

Will their expectations come true or will they have to forge a different path in their new country?

Spanning 13 years over the ‘Golden Era’ of Empire, this story blends the experiences of Indian ayahs and lascars who worked on the ships carrying trade goods, alongside the first Indian politician to be elected as a Member of Parliament. This epic story reveals how socially diverse the Asian presence was in nineteenth century Britain.

Transferring directly from the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon and directed by Pooja Ghai, Artistic Director of  Tamasha, this new production of The Empress will take you from the rugged gangways of Tilbury docks to the grandeur of Queen Victoria’s Palace, whilst unveiling the long and embedded culture of British Asian history.

Content warning:

This production contains explicit language, depictions and description of violence and sexual advances. Click here for more information.

In the press:

“Tanika Gupta: Colonial play ‘The Empress’ still relevant and more political now” – Read the full piece in Eastern Eye here.

“Interview: Tanya Katyal on The Empress” – Read the full piece on Theatre Weekly here.

Post-show Q&A: 18 October, exclusive to ticket holders

Hear from playwright Tanika Gupta in a live Q&A with WriterMosaic’s Karla Williams. Exclusive to ticket holders for the performance on Wednesday 18 October, 7.30pm.


We offer a sonic story for The Empress. It highlights the key sounds from throughout the performance. The graphic is available to all audience members but we hope that it will be particularly useful for anyone who might benefit from an increased understanding of the sensory elements of the show. Click here to download.

Audio notes for the play can be found as a Word document and mp3 file.

Click here to download the audio notes as a Word document. 

Click here to download the audio notes as an mp3 file.


We offer a discount for school group bookings, as well as school workshops and teacher CPD. For more information click here.