Actor Rik Makarem is musing about his latest theatrical challenge.

“Seriously, it’s an art form,” he insists. “It’s like a symphony, bringing the different elements together.”

What he is talking about so lyrically is actually how to....wash dishes.

Every night Rik will have his hands in soap suds as he washes up crockery and cutlery.

He is starring in the new play The Dishwashers, by Morris Panych, which starts a UK tour at Birmingham Rep on January 31.

He plays Emmett, who was a high-flyer as a City banker but who has lost his job in the financial crisis. He was a regular customer at an upmarket restaurant in which he is now forced to work as a dishwasher.

He is shown the ropes by Dressler, played by David Essex, who has been washing dishes for 30 years.

Rik says: “The set and the technical side of the play is insane, as they’re having to build a kitchen on stage at the Rep, with real drains and water spouts and so on.

“We do spend a lot of time washing dishes, but I promise you we will make two and a half hours very appealing – the script is very witty.

“My mum wants me to go home and wash all her dishes now using my new skills! We all have to work together as a team to get it right, and there have been a few plates and forks dropped.

“Actually my first job when I was 15 was washing up at quite a pretentious golf club, so I have had some practice.

“David Essex is a wonderful talent, I think people will be impressed by his acting capabilities.

“Dressler has seen Emmett’s arrogance many times before but he manages to teach him quite a few values during the course of the play.”

Rik, 32, was born in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, and played Nikhil Sharma in ITV soap Emmerdale for four years.

Rik Makarem stars alongside David Essex in The Dishwashers at Birmingham Rep.
Rik Makarem stars alongside David Essex in The Dishwashers at Birmingham Rep.

The sweet factory owner had a tragic time, as his wife Gennie was murdered. The character left last August for a new life in Toronto with their baby daughter Molly.

Rik says: “I’m very proud of my Emmerdale journey. I was given such a fantastic story arc to close with.

“Some people thought it was a premature end for the characters. But looking back, although it was a sad storyline, it was a massive opportunity for me as an actor to show a different side to the character.”

Rik says the cast is “chuffed and excited” to be in The Dishwashers at the Rep, which then goes on a UK tour.

“I have had many a great night out in Birmingham. I like the music and theatre scene there,” says Rik, whose passion when he’s not acting is songwriting.

“It’s a great stress relief but I write songs for other people to perform, not me. I’m not hanging up my acting hat yet.

“It’s been good to talk to David Essex about music. I think a lot of management companies tend to interfere with talent these days.”

Rik is also a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

“I started doing martial arts when I was five and became a black belt when I was still a junior,” he explains.

“It was my dream to take part in the Olympic Games, but at the time Tae Kwon Do wasn’t an Olympic sport.

“So I threw myself into acting instead, but I still do it now and again. I can still do the splits.

“And if David gets cheeky, I might throw in a karate chop!”

* The Dishwashers is at Birmingham Rep from January 31 to February 15. For tickets ring 0121 236 4455 or go to