Belarus Free Theatre’s Red Forest research expedition: From Bangladesh to Kolkata

Having spent their first 3 days in Bangladesh, Red Forest’s choreographer Bridget Fiske and lighting designer Andrew Crofts head to India for the next part of their research expedition.

: We journeyed to the border at Benapole to make the crossing to India. I wasn’t ready to leave Bangladesh. We decided to do the two hours train journey to Kolkata. It’s India, why wouldn’t you?

AC: And we were glad we did. The station and the train itself were colourful and intense; the platforms were more like market places and the carriages full of merchants jumping on and off at each stop.

BF: Arriving there was a new density of sound and of people, a crumbling of footpaths and buildings. The positing of things contemporary, old and ancient into this space – Kolkata.

: It’s not fast getting anywhere here. I have never negotiated traffic like it. The cars, rickshaws, motorbikes and tuk-tuks come from all sides. After finding Tablas from what felt like a beautifully authentic music craftsman, we ventured to some galleries to look at Indian artworks. I was interested in the way the body was captured, represented and contextualised. What seemed most evocative in the work I saw, including contemporary works, was that sense of the transcendental.

AC: So, sticking to our respective areas of expertise, I’ll mention the light. It’s thick here, I guess from the dust in the air, hazy and bright enough to make you squint all day. It was similar in Bangladesh as well but in that watery landscape it seemed to come from all directions at once, it was so diffused that things didn’t seem to have shadows. Here it’s a little more solid and you’re grateful for the shade from the tall buildings, especially the gloriously crumbling colonial palaces and deco apartment blocks. We went in to one of these looking for an exhibition, the gallery wasn’t open yet but I was happy enough exploring the dusty old staircase.


GoddessBF: The goddess of knowledge, music, arts and nature Saraswati was celebrated today, she was vivid and she was everywhere. Music was played loud through the day, night and in the light of the next morning.

AC: All the schools were closed and temporary roadside shrines had popped up everywhere, some small, some large they were like colourful market stalls but containing a statue of Saraswati and offerings of flowers, food and money. We decided to cross the city on foot and take it all in on our way over to Asia’s biggest book-fair.

BF: At the Kolkata Bookfair we spoke with activist health professionals, journalists, artists, academics and writers who have been advocating for environment and health in India for a long time. As I understand more the story of India I hope I can justly articulate more about their work, their passions and their desires for India.

AC: The time came to leave. It was dark now and with no taxis to be found we set off through the dark crowded streets, the festival atmosphere in swing, the roads lit mainly by the lights surrounding the effigies of Saraswati.

More on Bridget and Andrew’s experience can be found on BFT’s website.

Red Forest runs at the Young Vic from 12 June – 5 July, click here to book tickets or find out more.

Presented as part of LIFT 2014, a London-wide festival of performance and international theatre taking place 2 – 29 June. Tickets also available through the LIFT Box Office, where a transaction fee applies. 

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