Handlooms explores the generational conflict between Rajesh and his mother who are both seeking conflicting solutions to a crisis in their business. An exciting and immersive theatrical experience set in a working sari shop, Handlooms challenges the simplistic and stereotypical assumptions about an aspect of migrant life, the sari.
Rani Moorthy, Artistic Director of Rasa Theatre tells us more about the site-specific performance and what it means to her.
At the age of 10, my mother and several very formidable aunts took me to a sari shop in Kuala Lumpur. I noticed the man at the till and how he looked like all the South Asian men I knew at the time. He controlled the establishment and completely embodied the male domain, working the tills and deciding price. But as soon as he became the sari salesman he transformed into something quite unexpected. His whole demeanour and way of addressing the women became flamboyant and intimate. The language, from what little Tamil I understood, was sensuous and very informal, even seductive. Even at that age I was struck by the fact that the usual social mores that dictated behaviour between men and women who were not closely related seemed to break down. And the women in my family were transfixed by the man who draped the sari on himself to demonstrate the flow and beauty of the fabric or invited her to notice how the colour enhanced her beauty.
Creating Handlooms as a site-specific show within the spaces of a real sari shop was apposite to the themes in the play. For many who don’t know the world of the sari shop, the space is charged with excitement, vibrancy and the whole exquisite assault on all your senses. Much of this unique atmosphere cannot be re-crated in a conventional theatre context.
The audience are the clients and will experience the very theatrical transaction between sari seller and buyer.
Anokhi House of Sarees on Leicester’s Golden Mile is one of the last traditional sari shops. They have not tried to make the shops look and feel like westernised boutique style establishments. Handlooms takes this particularly symbolic part of South Asian life but examines the garment through the eyes of both the older and younger generations. It takes place inside a fictional sari shop where a mother and son are in conflict, and it’s both unexpected and upends stereotypes which will be much food for thought for any audience – but particularly South Asian audiences.
Collaborating with director Alan Lane it uses sound technology, so the audience will wear headphones as well as experiencing the story unfolding live around them. The combination of the space with the actors practically whispering into your ear will make for a unique theatre experience.
Handlooms will take place at Anokhi House of Sarees , 99-101 Belgrave Road, Leicester, LE4 6AS from 10-22 April, performances Tue- Sun: 7.30pm and 9.15pm.
Tickets are £15, £10 concs, on sale now through Curve Leicester. Book via 0116 242 3595 or curveonline.co.uk