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Rasa Theatre presents
Whose Sari Now?
Hexham Queen’s Hall
Friday 28th October 2016
Written and performed by Rani Moorthy
Directed by KimberleySykes
Six yards of cloth, wound round tight
Or draped seductively
Or practically, for breastfeeding
Or pulled between thighs to walk like a man
Or wildly thrown together, with Doc Martin boots
A modest proposal or a political act or a defiant one
Rasa debunks the myth behind the sari in Whose Sari Now?, a one-woman show touring nationally this autumn/winter. This rich performance by writer and performer Rani Moorthy explores the complexity of the garment and the role it plays in the lives of women, by exposing a diversity of stories beneath its multilayers.
The first of a trilogy of plays inspired by the sari, this funny and poignant production sees Rani Moorthy performing five characters whose stories are bound together: an old Asian woman whose saris are like her second skin, a young mother giving birth in a war zone wrapping her twin babies in her wedding sari, a Malaysian historian connects the sari with mythology, a transgender reflects on his girlfriend’s sari obsession, a low caste weaver drapes the sari on a member of the audience who she is conditioned to believe is more worthy and a character who contemplates her relationship with the sari in her final hours.
Whose Sari Now? unfolds to specially created music drawn from a variety of influences including classical Indian Carnatic music, pop, hip-hop, Tamil rap, Malay instrumentation, western classical and contemporary music.
A Sri Lankan Tamil, Rani grew up in Malaysia, was educated in Singaporeand came to live in the UKin 1996. The unique alchemy of being an outsider and a migrant set her up for the artistic life as writer and performer deeply invested in what is shared rather than what makes us different.
She says, “The sari is an extremely complicated garment. Usually first worn in the coming of age ritual, the drape is a constant reminder that it's really held up by folds and knots that could easily unravel. And yet women work in it, give birth in it and are cremated in it. The metaphor is rich for exploration, especially when examining the role of the sari in the lives of second and third generations from the South Asian Diaspora. I wanted to go beyond the Bollywood tropes, the obvious short hand to a culture that is mired in patriarchy, casteism, ritual and misogyny, to explore the variety of roles it holds for many women.”
Whose Sari Now? is the first in a trilogy of work inspired by the sari. The second, which Rani is currently writing, will be sited in a real sari shop and explores the intimate salon-like relationship between a male sari seller and his female clients. The third will be Handloom set in a weaving community threatened with closure.
That “strip of cloth”, whether draped on ancient statues of Goddesses or on contemporary icons like Madonna and Samantha Cameron, affords the woman both great allure and power all at once. The vulnerability comes from the lack of structure, the nature of the drape comes from what the woman is doing, her social status, her caste, the one size fits all, the transitory nature of the garment and in the bare midriff.
The power of a sari is in its mutability; its sheer ability to incorporate all that is woman. It celebrates every shape of woman; with no need to bind, hide or depending on the drape contain any part of the anatomy. The folds of the sari can be hitched up or drawn between the legs when there was hard, physical work.
The audience for each performance of Whose Sari Now? will be encouraged to bring their own sari or wear one in a post event called “Sari Sari Night”.
Ana Inés Jabares-Pita Scenographer
Pablo Fernandez Baz Lighting Design
Renu Arora, Vocals and Vocal Composition
Santhors JP Music Composition
SujeethG Vocals and Rap Composition
Shanaz Gulzar Video Projection
Leann Young Stage Manager
Kajal Nisha Patel Press Image (photography)
Shamaila Khan (North West Press/Marketing)
Tickets cost £13.50 (full) £12 (friends/benefit/conc) £6.50 (student) and can be obtained online at http://www.queenshall.co.uk/events/whose-sari-now or from the box office.
Box office no: 01434 652477