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Day 1 – BandBazi/Q Theatre Productions – Mindwalking June 17, 2010

Posted by British Council India in Connections through Culture.
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Post by Philipa Vafadari, Thursday 17th June, 2010

We arrived late last night and havn’t really recovered from the journey but are already straight in with a meeting at The British Council offices today – they gave us the travel, visas and accommodation money through their Connections Through Culture fund.  John (Binnie), Tanika (Gupta) and Q(uasar Padamsee) are interviewing potential actors for the role of the Father in the piece and I have snuck away to write this on one of the BC computers as my internet connection isn’t working at the hotel. 

We are meeting 6 older actors today, all but one of whom are Parsee.  So far they have been fascinating to talk to about their lives and experiences.  It is a bit different here to England though, acting in the theatre is often on a semi-professional basis and, because it is very poorly paid most people have other professions.  So far we have met a Business consultant and an airline pilot!  Bollywood, of course, pays really well…  I say it is different, but how many actors in the UK can say that acting is their full-time job?

3 of the actors we meet today will be invited to workshop with us over three days at the weekend.  It’s a packed schedule but we want to make the most of our time here. 

Tonight is dinner hosted by Q’s mother Dolly Thakore.  There will be about 15 guests – all either writers, poets, actors or directors.  It is going to be a fascinating trip.

Tomorrow are meetings with two Parsee newspapers to tell them about the project so that they are on board for the previews and reviews if it tours India in autumn 2011. Also a meeting with the CEO of the National Centre of Performing Arts, Khusrow Suntook about taking the show.

Q has promised us a whistlestop siteseeing tour of the City.  It’s invaluable having him as our host and guide. 

Keep you posted…Philippa

Here is a vidoe of the Work-in-progress at the Alchemy Festival at Sounthbank Centre in April 2010 as part of the Connections through Culture programme.

Adapting the novel Mrs D’Silva’s -work-in-progress June 8, 2010

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In early 2010 the British Council awarded a Connections through Culture Development grant to Parthian Books, an independent publishers based in Wales, UK, and theatre producer Rebecca Gould to begin adapting the novel Mrs D’Silva’s Detective Instincts and the Shaitan of Calcutta into a stage play, in partnership with Tin Can performance company.   


In May, the creative team – author Glen Peters, playwright Lewis Davies, Rebecca Gould, and actor Shereen Martineau – travelled to Kolkata for a four-day workshop with Tin Can. 

The workshop, led by Tin Can director Soumyak Kanti de Biswas, was a fusion of very different artistic and working styles, and demonstrated both the special challenges and great creative rewards of cross-cultural collaboration.   

For the British team, used to a model of creating plays where the script is written first and it is the actors’ job to bring the words to life, it was an eye-opener to work with a company who create plays as an ensemble, with the writer just one voice among many.   

“I found this a really exciting way of working,” says the playwright, Lewis Davies. “It meant I could write very sparingly, allowing enough space for the visual and physical storytelling to happen around the lines.”  

Tin Can do not discuss the characters’ motivations or thoughts; instead, they are led by their bodies and by the atmosphere of the scene. They draw on a wide range of influences including European physical theatre traditions and traditional Bengali theatre. 


“What was striking was to see how Tin Can worked as a genuine ensemble,” comments Rebecca Gould. “For me they encapsulated how collaborative theatre should work – each member of the group was entirely open and willing to push well beyond their comfort, physically and emotionally. Collectively they were able to read and interpret the pictures created by fellow members with amazing speed and then to add to them, making them more sharper, more detailed and more expressive.”

All members of the group were keen to learn new styles of working and to break out of their habitual way of doing things.

UK-based actor Shereen Martineau explains: “In Britain, often we feel our way toward a full, extended performance but it seemed the company began with full commitment,  with a certainty and filled in the gaps thereafter. This seemed to me incredibly courageous and served the work in a different and magnetic way. I took from this what I could and I think they too took from our approach. We have much to learn from each other.”

It was initially difficult for the Kolkata actors to work from a script, especially when they had to hold it in their hands; they felt this interfered with their ability to improvise. However, as author Glen Peters comments: “Rebecca’s emphasis on the need to follow a script, although at first difficult for the actors, transformed the mime, dance, music and drama into a powerful amalgam of words and action which I hope will be knockout theatre.”

There was also much debate about the content of the play and what kind of story it should tell. The book itself is a hybrid – a whodunnit, a love story, and a political thriller – and, like its author, has its beginnings in a hybrid community founded on the mixing of different cultures. It is set at a pivotal moment in Kolkata’s history: the Maoists are gaining prominence; the Raj has ended but the British still hold key jobs in industry. 

For Tin Can, this was a chance to explore the history of their own city, seen from the perspective of Glen, a member of the minority Anglo-Indian community who grew up there but emigrated to the UK in the 1960s. And for the UK team, the opportunity to see the locations in the book for themselves made it possible to really bring it to life.The team also put on an event at Seagull Arts and Media Centre, attended by approximately 50 members of the public, who had the chance to see work in progress and join in with the team’s discussions.

As for the future, Lewis is now writing the play, ten scenes of which will form the basis for the final production. The question ‘Who killed Agnes Lal?’ is the central question of the drama, with the other elements of love interest, political intrigue, and women’s experiences woven into the story. The team hope to hold another workshop at a later stage, to collectively develop the play into a final form which can be produced in both India and the UK.

And this final shape will depend completely on the fusion of the India and UK creative teams, and the work of the whole group as an ensemble. As Rebecca says: “I started the workshop rather naively saying that Lewis would write the play that he wanted to write, but that it would be informed by the process over the next few days. In fact, the play Lewis plans to write is entirely inspired and has been created by the process he went through with the actors.”

Post by – © Parthian Books Ltd

Want to be a PLAYWRIGHT? June 7, 2010

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British Council (as part of Connections through Culture programme) and Rage bring The Royal Court Theatre, London to town for the third time. For Writers’ Bloc 3. An amazing pot of gold awaites you.


Send in a one-act or a full-length play (in any language) and you could be one of the final 12 playwrights who get a chance to participate in a two week residential playwright workshop by the mentors of Royal Court Theatre.

For Further details call Rage at 9773612114 or email at writersbloc@ragetheatre.co.in

So don’t wait…Deadline: 15 July 2010

Connections through Culture: UK-India Grants Scheme now open June 7, 2010

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We are delighted to announce that following our pilot UK-India: Connections through Culture programme, we will be continuing the initiative for the next three years. The programme will include creative networking opportunities, development support and a number of small grants to enable producers and arts organisations to develop relationships and create collaborative work.

Connections through Culture: UK-India is the British Council’s programme to seed and support collaborative working between the UK and India in the arts, to generate long term partnerships.

Applications for the next round of the CtC: UK-India scheme are now open. Applications need to demonstrate commitment towards developing a specific project or relationship and should come jointly from an organisation in the UK and in India. Grants are available between £500 and £5000 or the equivalent in Indian rupees.

The closing date for applications (Round 3) is 30 June 2010.

 Log on for more details – http://www.britishcouncil.org/india-arts-ctc.htm

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