Nisha Madhan


NameNisha Madhan (she/her)
Country of BirthQatar
Place of ResidenceNaarm Melbourne
ArtformTheatre, Screen, Performance art
Decades Active2000s, 2010s, 2020s


Nisha Madhan is an experimental live art maker, producer and programmer who has worked across theatre, film and television. She likens her approach to creating and curating performance to throwing parties that “make people feel cared for”, and her work explores ways of rejecting and undoing misogyny, neoliberalism, capitalism and colonisation through expressions coloured by rage, optimism, sneakiness and joy.

Born and raised in Qatar where her father worked as a doctor, Madhan spent holidays each year in New Delhi with her extended family and went to boarding school in the Himalayas. “It was run by American missionaries and it was called Woodstock. Pot grew on the hillside, you could just pick it and dry it off on bandanas." Her family moved to Aotearoa when she was 13.

Between the years 2007 to 2009, Madhan played the role of nurse Shanti Kumari on Shortland St — the first core cast Indian character the show had ever had. She went on to play guest roles in various New Zealand television series), but faced significant challenges with being typecast within the screen industry. “Some of Shanti’s storylines were 100 per cent racist,” and she has reflected that “the more of a good person [stereotypical good Indian girl] Shanti was, the more debauched [in life] I became.”

This led her back to live performance. “In the theatre. I can be anything I say I want to be.” Madhan played with 11-piece band The Hot Grits, performed burlesque with Dust Palace, and worked with companies like Indian Ink, Theatre Beating, The Playground Collective, Pressure Point Collective and Barbarian Productions.

Much of Madhan’s contemporary work is grounded in live art. “Live art has been a useful way for me to enter conversations about feminism, cultural identity and decolonisation through art,” she reflects in her thesis. “In my live art world, I can be powerful, chaotic, sexy, dangerous, angry and the centre of plot, rather than the epilogue.” Many of her works have been developed with long-time collaborator, artist Julia Croft. Power Ballad (2017), an undoing of language, started when they “stole this vocal effects pedal from Indian Ink Theatre Company while we were doing a show with them that we hated”. Medusa (2018) was an exploration of what a feminist way of making might be — a rejection of the auteur — while Working on My Night Moves (2019) allowed for a joyful experiment in building feminist futures that critic Lyn Gardner praised for the way “it turns the world upside down and tries to find a new form for theatre, for time and space, for the universe itself.

Madhan studied performing arts at Unitec, trained in clowning at École Philippe Gaulier in Paris and, in 2021, completed an MA in Drama at the University of Auckland. She previously created and curated Somewhere Series, a live art performance event held in her inner-city apartment. Between 2019 to 2023, she was Programming Director at Basement Theatre, was a guest curator for Live Dreams: Ancestry, part of Liveworks Festival of Experimental Art 2021, and is co-director of F.O.L.A. (Festival of Live Art). She is now based in Naarm where she is Lead Creative Producer with Next Wave.


Key works / presentations

As a creator and performer:

Fuck Rant
2018 — Basement Theatre, Tāmaki Makaurau

2018 — Q Theatre, Tāmaki Makaurau

2015 — University of Auckland Drama Studio, Tāmaki Makaurau

What Have You Done to Me?
2014 — Basement Theatre, Tāmaki Makaurau

As a creator and director:

Working on my Night Moves

2019 — Basement Theatre, Tāmaki Makaurau
2019 — Summerhall, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Edinburgh
2020 — The Yard Her/Now Festival, London

Power Ballad
2017 — Auckland Fringe, Basement Theatre, Tāmaki Makaurau 
2017 — Melbourne Fringe Festival, Melbourne
2017 — Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Edinburgh
2018 — Cairde Sligo Arts Festival, The Factory Performance Space, Sligo
2018 — Battersea Arts Centre, London
2018 — Loft at Q Theatre, Tāmaki Makaurau
2018 — Perth’s Fringe World, Blue Room Theatre, Perth
2019 — The Cultch, Vancouver
2019 — Tron Theatre, Glasgow
2019 — Cambridge Junction, Cambridge
2019 — The Marlborough Theatre, Brighton

Cowboy Mouth and Love It Up
2012 — Snake Pit, Tāmaki Makaurau

As a director:

2021 — Terrapolis
2018 — Your Heart Looks Like a Vagina
2018 — Cult Show
2015 — 7500 Days

Key awards

2020 — Auckland Theatre Awards: Excellence Award for Overall Production (Working On My Night Moves)

2019 — Edinburgh Festival Fringe TOTAL theatre award (Working On My Night Moves)

2018 — Auckland Fringe Awards: Best in Fringe (Fuck Rant)

2018 — Auckland Fringe Awards: Best in Live Art (Fuck Rant)

2018 — Auckland Theatre Awards: Community Spirit Award

2017 — Melbourne Fringe Festival Awards: Discovery Award (Power Ballad)

2017 — Auckland Fringe Awards: Best Live Art (Power Ballad)

Last updated: 29 February 2024 Suggest an Edit


A woman leaning against a black brick wall covered in blood, with the floor also covered in blood. She is staring blankly into the audience

Fuck Rant, 2018

Photo by Andi Crown

A woman splattered in blood lying on a concrete stage floor pointing angrily off-camera

Fuck Rant, 2018

Photo by Andi Crown

A woman splattered in blood pulling a roll of duct tape across a stage

Fuck Rant, 2018

Photo by Andi Crown

A black-and-white photo of three women heaping piles of sand on the beach and laughing

Medusa, workshop process with (L-R) Virginia Frankovich, Julia Croft and Nisha Madhan, 2019

Photo by Andi Crown

A close-up of a single pile of sand with three hands

Medusa, workshop process with Virginia Frankovich, Julia Croft and Nisha Madhan, 2019

Photo by Andi Crown

Powerpoint slide

Excerpt from Nisha Madhan's MA thesis, 'Islands Of Hope and Care', 2022

Powerpoint slide

Excerpt from Nisha Madhan's MA thesis, 'Islands Of Hope and Care', 2022

Close-up of a woman's face, lit by orange light

Medusa, 2019

Photo by Andi Crown

three women standing in a triangle, each lit by a thin, sharp green beam of light emanating from the ground

Medusa, 2019

Photo by Andi Crown

Powerpoint slide

Excerpt from Nisha Madhan's MA thesis, 'Islands Of Hope and Care', 2022