London is always bursting at the seams with exciting events. But there is one annual fringe theatre festival that is close to my heart – A Season of Bangla Drama. This is now in its thirteenth year and is running from the 1st till the 29th of November 2015; bringing a programme of the best new talent in theatre, dance & music to London’s East End.
The organisers have asked me to review and blog about this year’s plays. And as with every year, it’s an absolute honour for me to engage with a festival I would encourage everyone to attend. It’s a month of discovering emotions within you that you may have never felt before, and watching the stage come alive with colour, powerful delivery, rhythm, and storytelling that continues to enrich our community.
The opening night at the Brady Arts Centre was an anticipated one. Sold out, and the air heavy with excitement. It was a treat as the festival opened with not one, but two productions. ‘Say What?’, by Arts Without Borders and ‘The Altab Ali Story’ by the Swadhinata Trust.
‘Say What?’, was devised by the young cast and directed by Dr Canan Salih. The festival team felt many of themes that are explored throughout a Season of Bangla Drama 2015 are as relevant to the younger generation as they are to those who will be articulating narratives through performance. So it was apt that the launch of the programme was with with young performers, who will be presenting a devised piece based on the question ‘What is Bangla’. Using movement, masks, mime, and spoken word the young artists presented their own views on marginalisation, identity and language.
The innovative approach the young actors took was incredibly impressive. The use of the body as an object, as expressions of movement, as a punctuation or a signal of the continuation of the narrative was impressive to say the least. The cast were confident, and grasped the theme by its root and deconstructed it so it was playful but engaging. The smaller younger actors became bags and rucksacks for the protagonist who in the play travelled from Bangladesh to Britain and like many of the first generation settlers and migratory birds now, experienced the early stages of alienation, isolation, newness, sadness and excitement and an overall sense of bittersweet change. The excellent use of the space, and movement was infectious. They not only managed to make the audience giggle on more than one occasion, but also made us contemplate, and explore a past that many of our forefathers may have experienced.
What I really loved most was the pace, and the ability for the cast to set the tone, the enciviroment, movement between continents and the little details of using a telephone box to getting on public transparent from simply the use of their body and a handful of foam cubes. Hats off to the young actors and director for kicking the festival off with a performance that will hopefully inspire and engage many younger generations to come.
I look forward to seeing what Arts Without Borders deliver in the future and wish them all the best.
© 2015 Shroomantics ~ Rahima Begum