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London, July 25 – The tale of ‘Mahabharata’ is an all time classic, and one of the greatest epics of all time that needs little detailing. The biggest epic of all time, ‘Mahabharata’ is now set for a new stage adaptation at the UK premiere at London’s Barbican Theatre this fall.
The legendary Hindu epic that packs with it some of the greatest thought changing and detailed philosophies, a powerful story of a great war and spiritual ideas, is presented by the Canadian theatre production ‘Why Not Theatre’ and had its world premiere in Canada back in March at The Shaw Festival Theatre in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
According to Variety, the production is presented in two parts and narrated by a storyteller (Miriam Fernandes). ‘Karma’ (part 1), is the origin story of the rival Pandava and Kaurava clans. In ‘Dharma’ (part 2), a great battle destroys the planet and the survivors are left behind to rebuild.
The retelling of Mahabharata will be performed by a contingent of actors ranging from across four continents, and all from the Indian subcontinent.
The cast includes UK-based performers Ajay Chhabra, Neil D’Souza, Darren Kuppan, Goldy Notay and Sakuntala Ramanee.
This big company of actors is joined by Canadian and other international performers like Shawn Ahmed, Jay Emmanuel, Fernandes, Navtej Sandhu, Anaka Maharaj-Sandhu, Ellora Patnaik, Meher Pavri, Munish Sharma and Sukania Venugopal, and understudies Varun Guru, Karthik Kadam, Suma Nair, Ronica Sajnani and Ishan Sandhu.
‘Mahabharat’ consists of over 100,000 shlokas, 200,000 verses and over 1.8 million lines. Penned by sage Vedvyasa, while the epic is attributed to him, Mahabharata has in fact seen various interpolations over the ages since its inception sometime during 400 CE.
Considered probably the greatest Sanskrit epic of all time alongside the ‘Ramayana’, ‘Mahabharata’ tells the story of the struggle between the Kauravas and the Pandavas resulting in the great war of Kurukshetra.
Alongside the war, the story tells in great detail, various aspects of that era such as the environments, kingdoms, livelihood, economy, politics and much more. It also dives great into various philosophical debates as well as things regarding spirituality.
The adaptation done is by Why Not Theatre’s founding artistic director Ravi Jain, and co-artistic director Fernandes, who will be using poetry from Carole Satyamurti’s ‘Mahabharata: A Modern Retelling’. The original concept was developed with Jenny Koons.
Fernandes talking about the big theatre production said: “These stories have been passed from storyteller to audience for thousands of years and span the earth, traveling in the memories and imaginations of the South Asian diaspora. Though first composed in an ancient time, the themes of greed, revenge, ecocide and privilege feel acutely relevant in our globalized world.”
Jain went on to say, “As a student in London, I watched the world masters dazzle audiences on the Barbican stage. 20 years later it’s a dream come true to share this complex work we’re so proud of at this truly special venue.”
Toni Racklin, head of theatre and dance at the Barbican, said: “Exploring the power of storytelling to understand where we’ve come from and to help us navigate our future, ‘Mahabharata’ invites us to connect with perspectives from across the world and inspire us to reimagine what we can achieve together.”
‘Mahabharata’ is an endless classic that has been immortalised for all time. While the tale originated in India, it has seen countless theatre adaptations in different countries ranging from Sri Lanka, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, the US, Canada, the UK, Russia, China alongside many others. Usually performed by Indians, the stage is joined by diasporas of various countries.
The ‘Mahabharata’ theatre production will open its big stage on the Barbican October 1 to October 7.