We settled and saw the flowered platform of musicians and singers, saw the drapes from the ceiling and the coloured poles and waited for the bell to sound the beginning of drama Bangla style. And that’s what you have to remember; this is not reality. This is theatre for the community, up the road, cheap as chips and not interested in anything other than art. So when you sit on the bench in the small auditorium and the lights are down and the stage is polished and illuminated by rainbow colours you must allow yourself to be transported to another place, a land of dreams and stories passed down through the generatons, told in different tongues but understandable to everyone. There was never a sense of being at someone else’s party. Ruksana and Isma from Tower Hamlets Council made sure of that. And children were very welcome. It was they who were busily painting numbers and shapes on the Brady Arts Centre mural wall before climbing the stairs to the back of the theatre to enjoy a treat with their parents and aunties, grandads and uncles.

 before the curtain rises HEY!

         OUT ON THE TOWN……BANGLATOWN

I loved all the dancing, all the singing, the lights, even the shadows.  The dancers were perfect and professional. I could look at their costumes all day long and,  give me a fit dancing man with diamond earrings any time! I never saw any sexualisation of the dance as happens a lot when directors need to pull in audiences. It never happened and my untrained eye actually never saw any difference between the dance of the man and the dance of the woman. There was no mind-wandering because the visual feast was overwhelming and the drumbeats attractive. The show started on time and finished exactly 2 hours later without a break: none was needed. The audience was relaxed anyway.

 work in progress…The Mural at Brady Arts Centre

Technology helped people to keep up. The synopsis of each dance drama was displayed on a back screen as were relevant and excellent photographs especially photos of dancers from the past doing the same movements which synchronised with the live artistes’  movements.

The music was fabulous. It was live and punctuated with discipline. Often the singers were in chorus mode and of course were on the same stage as the performers. Individually they were moving and perfect and actually the sound engineering was ace bringing out every nasal tonal note.

Here was a drama in a theatre pulling in dance, song, music, sets, light and sound. All that for a fiver? Tagore would have wanted people to pay nothing more because the stories actually belong to them. There were stories of lust and joy, yearning and forgiveness, humanity and the gods, kings and princesses.

We looked at duets and solo performances. The whole stage was always alive. The music was in surround sound. The theatre was warm; makes a big difference.

Dr Ananda Gupta was a superb leader. The stories we witnessed in full glory were  “Shyama”,  “Notir Pooja”, “Chandalika”, “Bisharjan”, and “Malini”.

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