Pardoned by a god

5th May 1995 at 01:00
Princess Aubergine, Midlands Arts Centre, Birmingham

Mounted for Birmingham's South Asian Arts Festival, Guy Hutchins' story for four to eight-year-olds comes from two traditional Indian folk tales: Panchkuina, and Rajkumari Baingan, both in circulation long before Snow White and Rose Red, or Sleeping Beauty (which they respectively resemble) entered the European canon.

Hutchins, who has worked with traditional story tellers in the villages of Rajahstan, presents the tale as both narrator and the King. The King's wife dies and is succeeded in his affections by a wicked enchantress Ratna, who determines to rid herself of the presence of the Princess Balna. But the gentle Princess is protected by the goddess Parvati, and Ratna is tortured by guilty fears before she is pardoned by the goddess and reconciled with Balna.

It is deeply absorbing with its powerful themes of jealousy and dispossession, sin, punishment, confession and forgiveness, delivered with the unsentimental elegance of Greek tragedy. The dramatic effect is heightened by rich oriental costumes, music, mime and dance. Praveen Rao captures every changing mood and fleeting sound on the drums and santoor while Chitraleka Bolar silently interprets the characters of Princess Balna and (masked) the evil Ratna: graceful hands suddenly appear like talons, fluid body movements become hard and angular. It is an enchanted hour.

Morning and afternoon performances to May 13. Box Office: 0121 440 3838.

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