During the month of November every year, I attend out of love and duty, what I feel is one of the finest fringe theatre festivals in the UK. As a staunch supporter of local arts, I have always tried to contribute however I can in ensuring these traditions continue in our urban spaces. This festival is called The Season of Bangla Drama, spearheaded by a good friend of mine and also a fellow theatre lover Kazi Ruksana, whom without, this festival would collapse. She, with the help of the Tower Hamlets Council and all the wonderful festival volunteers and venues, leads this annual celebration from inception to delivery – and it has gone from strength to strength every year.
The festival offers a diverse range of plays with Bengali sensibilities from the UK, Bangladesh and West Bengal. It aims to explore how Bengali culture and heritage can be exported across continents and reinterpreted using a mixture of innovation and tradition to inspire a new generation and develop new audiences. The festival is also a great platform for emerging writers, directors and performers to showcase their talents. . I am asked every year to review the plays, which is both a pleasure and challenge, especially for the really good ones where I’m often lost for word and just want to say ‘incredible’!
THE KING’S COURIER
Sunday 16th November, a cold brisk walk to the Brady Centre and the delivery of Monchoshoilee’s ‘The King’s Courier’, a reinterpration of Tagore’s much loved tale of The Post Office, Dak-Ghar.
The play was a a one-act play which is more of a ‘fantasia’. Both Tagore’s and the present play deal with the premature death of a little boy called Amal. With a large number of children in lead roles, this play has a focus on mortality. Yet there are considerable differences. In Tagore’s play the dying boy is always on-stage, acting as a catalyst to adult reactions to his certain death. In the present play, the boy Amal is very much off-stage while the on-stage adult characters (almost oblivious to the boy and his death) queried by village children, express their purpose on earth and the joy of their work. The village children eventually relate each character to Amal’s imminent departure from the mortal world.
I found myself enjoying this piece but also wanting to get on stage and help them in some way. The children were fantastic, some more then others, with energy, enthusiasm and a natural charm. Their co-ordination, and rehearsals and days of prep was visible. I was particularly moved by two young children, a young lady in a grey top and a light pink salwar who sang loudly and every scene was delivered with extra gusto from her. And one of the youngest in the cast, a young boy called Taha, who charmed the entire audience with his cheeky comments, and spontaneity and natural comfort on stage. The play was moving as it developed and we slowly grew to feel the pain of the grandfather at Amal’s loss, and the impact we feel it would have on his friends who had so patiently waited for his exit from his refuge in his room to recover. We laughed through the scenes of visitors meeting the children and passing on their messages which were also wonderful lessons of life and love and loss that as an audience, we could all walk away with.
It was a sweet ode to Tagore’s piece, but my greatest criticsm would be that I felt the scenes were not as seamless as they could be. The adult actors I felt has not all spent enough time rehearsing and both nerves and a little confusion could be felt throughout the performance. The stage direction could have been tightened and play shortened. There were moments when it was longer then it needed to be. The children really did bring it together as much as it could, however, I was disappointed with it as a entire piece and hope that for future performances, they can make it punchier, shorter, and possibly spend more time to ensure each character played by the adults is well rehearsed, understood and delivered with a little bit more energy and conviction so they we can connect with them as an audience.
© 2014 Shroomantics ~ Rahima Begum
Cast and Production Team
Monchoshoilee presents The King’s Courier
Written by Dr Bishnu P Choudhury
(in English & Bangla)
Actors: Ruhin Rahman, Amal Nawar, Hossain Reevu, Sumaisa Salsabil Esaba, Syeda Afreen Zaman Ahona, Taha Abu Hanif, Wafeeq Zaman Tayseer, Adiba Anjum Hossain Noha, Farah Naz Ruby Hoque, Tapsri Sangma, Ayesha Elahi/ Rana Meher, Shah Md. Wahiduzzaman, Jahirul Haque Ifti, Mozibul Hoque Moni, Jakir Chowdhury, Ziaur Rahman Saklen, Arifuzzaman Syed, Humayuen kabir Mahin/ Ujjal Das, Rajib Das Raju
Director and choreography Ziaur Rahman Saklen,
Creative producer Shamim Azad,
Production manager Arifuzzaman Syed
Advisor Humayuen Kabir Mahin,
Lighting Rajib Das
Wardrobe Khadija Rahman
Led by Nila Shaha, Syeda Ifat Ara, Nusrat Sarmin
Head of Music Anuradha Roma Choudhury,
Backing Vocalist Shudeshna Chakroborty Diya, Taslima Parvin Shima,
Set Design Sudip Chakroborty, Atiqul Islam,
Make-up Ruhul Amin and Rajib Das, Ashesh Roy, Ifti, Jakir,
Projector Design Khadija Rahman
Monchoshoilee is part of Bishwo Shahitto Kendro a creative art, literature and education based organisation, whose programmes promote harmonious cross-community relationships.