The Little Clay Cart pushes South-Asian culture to Kiwis

October 12, 2023

The Little Clay Cart pushes South-Asian culture to Kiwis

Pose for the camera! Actor Rishabh Kapoor sits for promotional photos. Photo: Nabeelah Khan.

An Auckland-based South-Asian theatre company are rehearsing family values and trust to cultivate a culturally-safe work environment.

The Little Clay Cart is a traditional Indian fable that has been adapted by the Prayas Theatre Company to tackle cultural issues of caste and power.

Actress Nabeelah Khan says the inclusive and culturally responsive environment helps her thrive as a performer.

“This is my first production working with an entire South Asian cast and crew, it definitely feels a lot more surreal, and intimate compared to other projects I’ve been a part of.

“There's an element of respect… we call our director uncle.

“You call everyone uncle and auntie… The aunties are a bit strict with you… it adds to the family aspect of it.

“Everyone kind of knows you on a personal level, it’s more of that tough love.”

The original fable is about an impoverished merchant and a courtesan who share a forbidden love but due to societal constraints cannot be together.

The 5th century Sanskrit play was translated into English only 100 years ago, making it a new play for Western culture.

Nuanced staging weaves between two timelines, displaying societal challenges and opening Kiwi minds to the rich values of South Asian storytelling.

Dances and performances allow the audience to sense the strong whanau ties felt within the production process.

Khan says the respect and love integral to her culture allows for a more effective critiquing process for the play.

“You feel more comfortable with them, so you’re more responsive to their comments.”

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