The Clay Cart

TAPAC - The Auckland Performing Arts Centre, Auckland

29/11/2023 - 08/12/2023

Production Details

Written by Sūdraka. Adapted by Shekinah Jacob.
Directed by Amit Ohdedar and Sananda Chatterjee.

Presented by Prayas Theatre

Prayas Theatre proudly presents our upcoming production- a classic in the world of Indian literature and theatre. The Clay Cart (Mricchakatika) is a renowned Sanskrit play by Sudraka, believed to have lived in the 5th Century CE.

The play is celebrated for its exploration of human nature, it’s social commentary and it’s blend of comedy and tragedy. It has captivated hearts of generations and now we are bringing it to life with a fresh perspective and the signature “Prayas touch”. Don’t miss a chance to witness this theatrical gem, reimagined for its new era.

Venue: TAPAC
Dates: 30 Nov – 8 Dec
Times: 7.30PM (4PM Sunday)
Prices: $33 – $38

Rishabh Kapoor, Ruchika Tandon, Namrata Mankame-Shanbhag, Jehangir Homavazir, Sahil Goyal, Ashley Shillong, Socrates Fernandes, Subhamoy Ganguly, Kamal Bansal, Vishant Kumar, Agustya Chandra, Nikita Varma, Sangeeta Hariharan, Tushar Kandari, Arpit Joshi, and Nabeelah Khan, all adding to the rich tapestry of The Clay Cart.

Theatre ,

110 minutes

A glorious, relevant and timely demonstration of Prayas’s vision

Review by Jess Karamjeet 05th Dec 2023

In case you aren’t familiar with their work, Prayas Theatre is the largest South Asian theatre, not-for-profit organisation in Aotearoa and, if you haven’t seen one of their theatre shows before, The Clay Cart is a brilliant introduction to their kaupapa.

With muted tones, the poster design denotes a traditional scene, yet the production is a kaleidoscope of contemporary colour and discourse which brings every audience member – Pan-Asian and Pākeha – along on its journey. There’s a focus on community, and the cast represents people from varied parts of the South Asian diaspora.

Mricchakatika, or The Clay Cart, is a 5th century Sanskrit text, and the core narrative is accessible and easy to follow – think a Shakespearian romance with fewer obstacles. That said, playwright Shekinah Jacob brings a myriad of perspectives to the original text, updating it to a modern context which allows for tongue in cheek moments as well as a resonating and timely commentary regarding the act of political dissent.

The new premise unfolds as a play rehearsal for Mricchakatika, led by ‘director’ Dutta (Rishabh Kapoor) who conflicts with ‘cast member’ Sandeep (Jehangir Homavazir) as he tries to cajole the cast into rejecting the text. The fifteen other ensemble members disagree with Sandeep, and the play unfolds with alternating modern-day vignettes and stylised play excerpts.

As the action progresses, the simplicity of plot points, for example how easily someone’s fortunes can change in the blink of an eye, form part of the cast debate. How relevant can the text be, when it seems alien to today’s modern audience? This is epitomised as Sandeep mimics Donald Trump, reciting the infamous recording of his take on his interactions with women, and there’s a subtle gasp from the audience. The playwright – and actor – really ‘go there’. The bold move shows how neither shy away from making the audience think and I can’t help but be impressed. Given the diverse age range of the audience, there’s a surprising spread of knowing laughter which indicates how the material lands.

The ensemble works well together, with a sense of tight collaboration. Everyone moves toward the same goal, no matter the focus of the scene. The direction is notable (Amit Ohdedar & Sananda Chatterjee), with cohesive scene transitions and the use of  interesting creative devices, such as the animals leading the clay cart, which bring the simple set to life.

Sound design (Moushumi Das & Ritesh Vaghela) helps to bolster the production, providing both naturalistic grounding like a rainstorm as well as musical additions from a range of time periods and genres. The lighting design (Calvin Hudson) is robust, with warm and cool colours denoting space and mood, as well as creating visual interest which works in tandem with the excellent costume design (Padma Akula). There’s a pleasing costume change during the interval, and a refreshing mix of individuality given to each of the performers – traversing both South-Asian and Western designs – in sumptuous earth tones.

The only slight downside to the production is the malfunctioning of fluorescent stage lights, which proves to be a distraction for this particular audience member with photosensitivity. This is hopefully something which can be an easy fix, and happily didn’t detract from the action too much.

At the play’s close, there are a few loose ends – which isn’t surprising when its conclusion has been so fiercely self-referential.

A glorious, relevant and timely demonstration of theatre, in keeping with Prayas’s vision to “revolutionise South Asian storytelling on stage in Aotearoa.”

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