Traditional Indian story telling comes to The Hafren

Reporter:

Barry Jones

AN ANCIENT tradition from India is being brought to life in a touring show coming to Mid Wales venues starting at Newtown’s Hafren theatre tomorrow, Friday, October 13.

The Kala Chethena Kathakali Company is bringing the tradition of Kathakali from Kerala, southern India, on tour to give people a chance to experience its unique blend of theatre, dance, drama, spectacle, music and storytelling.

Other local dates will be at Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon, on Wednesday, October 18; and Aberystwyth Arts Centre on Saturday, October 20.

Touring England and Wales in this India Year of Culture 2017, the renowned Kala Chethena Kathakali Company present the classical dance drama of the state of Kerala which also combines ritual, vibrant costumes and the centuries-old, highly skilled art of make-up called ‘chutti’. The chutti is in the Guinness Book of Records as the most three-dimensional make-up in the world.

The show is presented by world-class Kathakali experts who have undergone years of intense training and have performed internationally for decades.

Before each performance there is a demonstration of how the actor tells a story, followed by a short film, to lead the audience into the Kathakali play that reflects the rich cultural identity of the people of India, especially the people of Kerala.

Based in Southampton and founded by Keralan Kathakali actor Kalamandalam Vijayakumar and Kathakali make-up specialist Kalamandalam Barbara Vijayakumar, the Kala Chethena Kathakali Company brings major world class artists from Kerala to tour nationally and internationally.

The couple met while studying at the world-famous centre for the study of arts and culture in Kerala, the Kerala Kalamandalam - Kalamandalam Vijayakumar, a student of acting and Kalamandalam Barbara, a student of chutti make-up. Barbara became the first female chutti (make-up artist) in the world!

Barbara`s story is remarkable. As an artist she wanted to explore the idea of abstract make-up techniques to incorporate into her own artistic practice. She travelled alone in 1972, hitch-hiking through Europe and Turkey, crossing the deserts of Iran, passing through the mountains of Afghanistan on the top of a lorry, a bicycle and a donkey, then onto the Kyber pass, Pakistan and into northern India.

After travelling south she got off a train at the wrong stop and quite by chance stumbled across the Kerala Kalamandalam, where she asked to join a course in chutti and finally settled in Kerala. She graduated in 1976 as the first female and non-Indian Kathakali make-up artist in the world. Barbara is also the longest practicing chutti artist – male or female - the first female Kathakali costumer and Kathakali costume maker in the world.

The Kala Chethena Kathakali Company brought Kathakali to this country in 1987 and made a base in Southampton. From this multi-cultural city the company has taken Kathakali throughout the UK bringing its rich and ancient culture to thousands of people of all ages, cultural backgrounds and abilities.

They strive to make the remarkable ancient heritage of Kathakali as accessible as possible and are delighted to be bringing Kathakali to the people of this country.

The Kala Chethena Kathakali Company gratefully acknowledges the generous support of the Arts Council England and Arts Council of Wales for making this tour possible.

Tickets for the Newtown show cost £10 or £5 for children from the box office on 01686 614555.

Email:

barry.jones@nwn.co.uk

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