Photos by Robert Workman

Tagore’s Women
Two intriguing new plays revealing personal lives amidst global political struggles, inspired by the female characters in the works of Rabindranath Tagore, the celebrated Bengali poet, playwright and early anti-British rule activist.

Purnjanam/Born Again
By Sharmila Chauhan
Directed by Janet Steel

In a city of transition and tradition, three liars, two lovers and a reluctant leader all desperately search for truth. As Mumbai burns, Purnjanam questions destiny, love and power, asking what must be destroyed for something new to be created.

Endless Light 
by Sayan Kent
Directed by Elizabeth Freestone

Amid environmental havoc and torn loyalties, an activist protesting against an opencast coalmine on top of a sacred mountain and the mine owner discover they share a secret they can no longer avoid.

These were presented 17-21 January  at the Vault, Southwark Playhouse      

Cast: Rebecca Grant, Manjeet Mann, Robert Mountford, Goldy Notay, Dharmesh Patel, Gary Pillai
Designer Molly Einchcomb
Lighting Designer Richard Howell
Composer Arun Ghosh

Both plays grew out of a series of workshops for Kali writers led by Elizabeth Freestone examining the many strong female characters in Rabindranath Tagore's writing. These looked at these classical characters but from a modern perspective. The writers then used these characters as a starting point for their own creative journey.

The three stories of Purnajanam explore love, death and power. The Lovers examines the consequences of the deification of women and finds young Muni frustrated as her relationship with a childhood sweetheart is yet to be consummated. The Liars finds three Mumbaites faced with death. I wanted to explore not just the disparity between classes but also social responsibility and the concept of dharma. The Leaders follows the path of reluctant leader Sumitra as she is asked to take responsibility for her activism; what are the responsibilities of power and action? The burning Mumbai is used as a microcosm to examine global politics; the referral to child labour is an analogy for the plight of disempowered people across the world, whose destinies are trampled by corporate globalisation. The play's other wordly, abstract nature has been used to distill these themes with tale illustrating how both spiritual and physical destruction is not only a part of living, but essential for change…
Sharmilla Chauhan

Endless Light by Sayan Kent
I’ve been calling this my Tagore play but of course, it is nothing of the sort.  Nevertheless the inspiration comes from the plays of Tagore and looking at the roles of the women within them.  In particular I was struck by Red Oleanders and the plight of the main character, Nandini struggling against the power of a mine owner.  Tagore’s spiritual connection to nature and the environment, his recognition of the inequality of women in society and his sense of the limitation of national boundaries have all inspired me. This is the start of a narrative journey, in which I have tried to encapsulate the story of two sisters, separated by national boundaries at a young age, who grow up with profoundly opposing attitudes to the environment. It is also about how we as individuals try to live in a harmonious place with ourselves while we struggle to find our place in the world.
Sayan Kent

Rabindranath Tagore was a celebrated Bengali poet, playwright and early anti-British rule activist. He was the first non-European writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. He was also an educator, social reformer, philosopher and painter. Tagore was also a composer and wrote the national anthems for both India and Bangladesh. In India, he is regarded as a national figure whose achievements are as important as those of Gandhi.