Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Arts & Entertainment

Jamuna: A play on woman, war and peace

The play is set in Bangladesh and zooms in on a woman’s shame and stigma that she encounters.

A renowned, self-taught sculptor puts the finishing touches to her work on the eve of her first major exhibition. This would be a tense moment for anyone. But when the inspiration behind her art is deeply personal, traumatic, and a long-kept secret, will the show turn out a success, or a source of shame? This is the moment at which we first encounter Jamuna, the driving character of this fascinating play. And we sit with her, on the edge of our seats, as she deals out the last demons of her mind and gets ready to speak her truth to the world.

It cannot be easy to capture the social anguish experienced during the Bangladesh Liberation War in an 80-minute play, but Selina Shelley has done it. Through one woman’s story, she recalls the physical and sexual abuse that many women experienced at the hands of the military at that time, redoubled by the social stigma that followed them back home.

The drama unfolds in the intimacy of Jamuna’s studio, filled with beautiful wooden sculptures that echo the works of Ferdousi Priyobhashini, whose life story gives inspiration to this play. And the sculptures come alive, accompanied by evocative music, to take centre stage as the characters who Jamuna loves, leans upon, or curses. Mohammed Ali Haidar’s direction and Samina Luthfa’s choreography make artful use of the stage, transforming it suddenly from Jamuna’s studio into a night-time river escape, then into a tortuous military camp.

The play may be set in Bangladesh, but Jamuna’s experience, her shame, and the stigma she encounters are themes that speak to women worldwide. For all of them, the play brings hope. On finally learning the truth of her mother’s past, Jamuna’s daughter Phul declares, “Ma, you are the victor!” — and in that moment, she throws off decades of shame, inviting all women to stand tall.

The cast is impressive. Four talented young women — two of them the playwright’s own daughters — play Jamuna’s much-loved sculptures that come alive then recede again into their woody forms. They literally dance from one incarnation to the next .

****************Theatre Folks Oxford brings “Jamuna” to Whitechapel on  4th November 2012.**********