Mourners’ tale explores caste system
Begging on the streets already seems like a hardhitting and emotionally draining task. But would someone go as far as crying for a living?
That is the question Indian theatre company Prayas will be asking of its audiences as it brings back Indian play Rudali – The Mourner for a second season.
Sanichari, played by Patricia Vichmann, is a woman living with her mother-inlaw, son, daughter-in-law and young grandson.
When life’s tragedies get the better of her, she turns to the profession of funeral mourner.
Those in higher class families hire lower class women as professional mourners, known as rudali, to cry at the funerals of their loved ones.
Co-director of the play, Kingsland resident Ahi Karunaharan says it explores the caste system and the social dynamics surrounding those women.
‘‘Rudali is a play that explores the role of women in rural India. It highlights a lot of the bigger social issues about grief and poverty by looking at the role of women, role of a mother, daughter and all that kind of stuff.’’
Anya Banerjee is returning to play the role of Sanichari’s daughter-in-law Parbatia.
‘‘It explores a lot of the intricacies of oppression and the different dynamics in which it can work with different women of different ages.
‘‘In this kind of society it can do things to people that for us in our position might seem inhumane, but for them can be the only route and the only way out.’’
While the play has some dark themes the cast and crew must be cautious not to show the Indian community in a bad light.
That’s something that Mr Karunaharan and his codirector ensured they did not compromise on.
‘‘There’s rituals and customs that they’re not going to understand but that’s the magic for them to try and figure it out rather than us trying to simplify things,’’ he says.
The Edge events centre programming manager Craig Cooper says the show fits in with the Herald Theatre’s contemporary programme.
‘‘From a western perspective it’s quite unfamiliar and it’s fascinating. It’s such a fundamental human thing, the grieving process. What does it mean when you have to pay somebody to do that?’’ Mr Cooper says.
‘‘That’s what’s so interesting about it, you’re being introduced to a part of the culture that you’re completely unfamiliar with. It’s a unique story and it was an obvious choice.’’
While the play has dark undertones, Sri-Lankan born Mr Karunaharan says people should not be discouraged by its heavy themes and says the play is actually humorous.
‘‘People think Rudali is all about grief and mourning and they think it’s going to be a really serious play. Yes, it talks about the really hard issues that we need to talk about, but it’s told in such an entertaining, accessible and beautiful way.’’
Dark and humorous: Rudali – The Mourner is being performed by Indian theatre company Prayas.