Theatre group of Indian professionals makes waves in Britain
Indian doctors, accountants, IT experts and others bring more than their professional skills to the United Kingdom. Many form groups that make waves in the arts, music, sports and Eastern Thespians, a theatre group combining east-west idioms, is one of the latest.
After staging five plays on contemporary political and other themes at major platforms such as the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Chelsea Theatre and Rich Mix Eastend, the group founded in 2012 has received much critical acclaim.
Founders of the London-based group told Hindustan Times on Sunday that the effort is to present an image about India beyond that of Bollywood and the still largely entrenched orientalist view of Rajas, snake charmers and rope ladders.
“It has been distracting and painful to watch the rootless, tinsel world created by Bollywood films gain currency as the vanguard of Indian culture,” said Debasish Banerjee, who holds a senior position in the National Health Service (NHS).
“In this representation, other than a loud and gaudy caricature, there is little to be seen of the rich artistic and cultural tradition that had developed in India over more than two millennia and included both eastern and western influences”.
Drawing on the resources of both eastern and western life, thought, philosophy and art forms, both traditional and modern, the group's activities include staging its play Footfall this summer to raise funds for victims of the Grenfell tower blaze.
“Two of my patients died in the tower,” said Chandrayee Sengupta, also a doctor and a co-founder of the group. “Another performance is planned to raise funds for Dalai Lama’s monastery in Ladakh,” she added.
Footfall, the group’s first play in English, was inspired by factory fires in recent years in Bangladesh, when many workers were killed. It explored the implications of multinational companies trading globally and the plight of poor workers employed by their suppliers.
Contemporary politics was the theme of its most recent play, After The Summer, focusing on the rise of a man with an insatiable thirst for power. Based in the fictional country of Dilemia, the play infused with black comedy is a commentary on the possible fate of many countries.
Using surtitles – the simultaneous display of English translation of dialogues being spoken in Bengali on a screen – the group has attracted a wider audience and rave reviews at performances in the Nehru Centre, the Brady Arts Centre and elsewhere.
Surtitles were used for its three plays in Bengali: Uttoradhikaar (The Inheritance), Mook (The Unspoken) and Artho (Wealth).
After Uttoradhikaar, set in 1958 Goa, was staged at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Bashabi Fraser, professor at the Edinburgh Napier University said: “What made the play most appealing was its focus on Goa not as a tourist destination but as a place which has been fought over and sought after by powerful nations.”
The acting is powerful, the dialogue absorbing, the drama gripping and intense, the effects meaningful and the music haunting. It is a play in Bengali with excellent English surtitles which allow a British audience to remain totally immersed and engaged.”