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 continue to enrich our community
Indara (The Water Well)
By Bangladesh Udichi Shilpi Goshti UK Sangsad
Written by Mannan Hira
Set in 1947, during the time of great religious and geo-political conflict, a young man was living in a village split into 2 highly segregated Hindu and Muslim communities but found it difficult to get work without revealing his faith-based affiliations, regardless of his skill. He contrived to withhold that information but was subsequently tormented by the pressure to reveal the religion of his new-born baby. When an infant with no obvious identity is discovered hidden in the water well of the village, the plot thickens and tensions mount in the community causing innocent lives to be lost.
The stage was simply dressed with a well in the centre and a two key characters who pretty much held the play throughout. A local police constable/security person who was ordered to stay by the well at all times in case of any communal fights, and a member of the local community who, by the end, became a friend of this constable. Two thirds of this production was sheer comical genuis. Well timed comedy is often a very hard thing to achieve, and to be able to make the entire audience laugh, even those who were not able to understand all the bangla words but could digest the core humor from the physical acting and movement alone – is not only a hard feat but often a fleeting part of productions tackling complex subjects like faith and community tension. But in this production, the writers and directors had taken a brave step to have the comedy as a central part of the narrative and it certainly worked wonderfully.
There were moments were the audience was laughing so much it was hard to hear the next set of words from the characters. Always a good sign and with ease and excellent timing the two characters delivered their roles brilliantly.
I often enjoy the attention to the stage, props, music and costume as much as the story and delivery itself. These are areas I feel contribute hugely to the success of a production. So be it a simple paired down set or a elaborate one, each object and placement can impact the production as a whole. So there were moments were I did feel some images on the projector or extra props could have helped in adding a little more to this piece. However the symbolic use of the costumes, and the comical exchanging of clothes all helped in filling this void to some extent.
Towards the end of the play, as the local community started marching towards the well and the play took a more serious turn, resulting in the discovery of a new born baby and the death of the two central characters in their attempt to save this child, was a powerful part which left me feeling both upset and disappointed with the way in which pride and intolerance can destroy the fabric of society. We all felt the loss when both characters were beaten and killed. The actors delivered this with great strength.
This play marked the end of the Season of Bangla Drama 2015 and what a powerful end it was – with Indara, a symbol of loss and gain and a reminder of the over-riding importance of harmony and acceptance.
Well done to the writer and actors, a relevant and well delivered production.
Cast and Production Team
Cast: Ujjal Das, Nurul Islam, Ashim Chakraborty, Suparna Chakraborty, Amina Ali, Nasima Ali, Shahin Salauddin, Sayem Chowdhury, Selim Malik, Firoj Ali, Sharmin Jahan and Rebeka Sultana.
Stage design: Ujjal Das, Sahabuddin Shmed Bacchu and Tawhid Chowdhury.
Costume design: Shagufta sharmeen Tania and Selina Shafi,
Sound direction: Ashim Chakraborty and Amit Dey
Light direction: Ujjal Das and Ashim Chakraborty
Props design: Jalal Uddin, Monjurin Rashid and Eva Ahmed.
Publication: Ujjal Das and Aminur Rahman Khan.
I am sad to see my favourite festival come to an end, and already anticipate 2016’s SOBD. Congratulations to all the festival organisers, especially the leading lady Ruksana Kazi Begum herself, for really creating a platform for such a wide array of talent but most of all, for giving us a home to share stories with eachother. Thank you!!
© 2015 Shroomantics ~ Rahima Begum