Adapted by Savannah Walling
Choreographed by Jai Govinda
Mandala Arts & Culture & Vancouver Moving Theatre
In partnership with the Roundhouse Community Centre

Venue: Roundhouse Community Centre

Date: Until 13 October 2002 Wednesday - Saturday at 8:00pm, Sunday Matinee at 2:00pm

Reviwer: June Heywood

Grab a cushion and head for the Roundhouse Community Centre. Immerse yourself in the ancient culture of the East. The Ramayana is a tale that is almost five thousand years old yet the main themes of love and separation are as relevant today as they were all those years ago.

In this production of the Ramayana epic and in keeping with tradition. numerous characters are played by a dancer (Anusha Fernando) and a storyteller/actor (Adrienne Wong). The original music is composed by Joseph "Pepe" Danza and based on an original work by Neelamjit Singh Dhillon. The vocal artist is Sheinagh Anderson. There are four puppeteers - Karen Wong, Tamara Unroe, Savannah Walling, and 12 year old apprentice, Montana Hunter. Jai Govinda choreographs and co-directs with Savannah Walling. Shane Droucker creates the lighting design. Each member of the production team deserves a mention as the show came together as if all the artists had participated in the creative process. Most have won national and international awards for their craft.

Anusha Fernando the dancer of many parts is exquisite. With her eyes, hands, and body gestures she wills the audience to believe she is a strong prince, a delicate princess, a demon king, a wicked stepmother, a magical deer, an eagle, and a monkey king among other characters. She dances in the Bharata Natyam style that is one of the classical dance forms of India. Jai Govinda's choreography allows Ms Fernando to fully express her talents.

The storyteller/actor, Adrianne Wong, glides, darts, and weaves across and behind the stage as she unravels the tale of love between Rama and Sita, their separation and their quest to be reunited. Although Ms Wong dropped her lines once or twice and forgot she was miked towards the end of the performance, her stage presence and quick recovery established her professionalism on opening night.

Sheinagh Anderson is vocal artist and vocal sound designer. Her technique is amazing. She interprets joy, sorrow, reverence, and fear with her voice alone. In addition to her talents as singer, dancer, actor, and creator, Ms Anderson has also toured internationally with well-known productions such as Cirque Du Soleil. This healing arts teacher knows how to work her vocal magic.

At the front of the stage sits pony-tailed Joseph "Pepe" Danza. He is "an electrifying percussionist and multi-instrumentalist" who was born in Uruguay. Mr Danza uses a profusion of instruments from the familiar such as guitar and sitar, to the unusual such as a sacred eagle feather, clay pots and a conch shell to name a few. Although exotic, many of the tunes are catchy. More than a few members of the audience were humming as they left the theatre.

The shadow puppeteers add to the magic feeling of the performance. The cut out shapes evoke palaces, forests, oceans, and the creatures that live in them.

The Ramayana deals with love and loss. It is also deals with problems of social, political, and family life. This story poses important questions about personal responsibility and the conflict between duty and personal desire. This production and the accompanying art exhibition are well worth a visit.

2002 June Heywood

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