Thursday 29 May 2014
This year - for the second time in its twelve-year history - the Season of Bangla Drama Festival will take place at Queen Mary, University of London.
Across East London throughout November, performances from over fifteen companies of UK/Bangladeshi and West Bengali origin will combine classical techniques with those of Applied Performance and Live Art, celebrating their re-invention in the diaspora alongside an abundance of performance forms from the cultural powerhouse of Asia. Our sister venues will be The Yard, The Kobi Nazrul Centre, Rich Mix and the Brady Arts Centre.
Co-curated by Ruksana Begum (Tower Hamlets Arts) and Ali Campbell (Applied Performance @ QMUL) the Festival will again use the University as a site of reflection and exploration of the much contested term Bangla itself, with a range of performances, workshops and Long Tables bringing all interested parties together. The keynote speaker will be the Bangladeshi High Commissioner, himself a noted expert on Tagore. We promise argument, provocation and celebration, often simultaneously!
Colleagues can taste the energy around the question What Is Bangla? in Claire Nolan’s short film created from last year’s events as part of AIR Supply’s participation.
Our shared language is performance itself, from the classical repertoire of Tagore (QM students performed in his famous Tasher Desh at the Octagon last year) to the controversial work of Showmi Das, who collaborated with female Drama students in 2013 on a shocking and ground-breaking devised dance piece based on verbatim transcripts of the rape trials of Bangladeshi domestic workers in Saudi Arabia: a legal as well as an artistic first.
The 2014 Festival will build on the creative, reflexive and social relationships between QMUL and our immediate Bangla neighbours, including the substantial Bengali audience across the Campus itself…with their families.
Last year Drama students devised and tested an innovative form of embedded evaluation whereby each was attached to one of the participating companies, enabling all participants (of whatever background) to identify priorities for their own professional development, youth participation and international exchange. This praxis has generated a tranche of applications to the AHRC and QM’s own CPE fund and currently a British Council-sponsored Research Links project to enable an exchange with the University of Dhaka in February 2015. If successful we will deploy Augusto Boal’s Legislative Theatre to investigate the connections between the Bangladeshi garment industry and labour rights worldwide. The project, Speaking Truth To Power, will be in collaboration with Ali’s counterpart in Dhaka, Sudip Chakroborthi and will involve a group of 30 activists, trade unionists, artists and early career researchers from both countries and across many disciplines, using participatory performance strategies to bring those affected by the Rana Plaza tragedy of a year ago directly into contact with those who employ them and those who seek to advocate for their rights.
Sudip’s play Dokkinha Sundari, produced by theatrEX Bangladesh, will be performed at QMUL in July as well as in Glasgow, Manchester and at East London’s Chicken Shed. Watch this space!