Blogs are written by THEWHATWORKS' Artistic Director, Imogen Butler-Cole. Most concern productions, some concern experiences that she deems relevant to productions or to her development as an artist.
THEWHATWORKS are creating a dynamic, motivated team of visionaries to help propel the company forward in its life as a multi-cultural theatre company based in London’s East End.
I’d met Kushan a few times socially and didn’t realise until he called me up asking me to record a few tracks for his album that he was a rapper. I was about to go on holiday for a week and he needed the tracks recoded before he left for Canada a few weeks after that. We would record two days after I got back from my trip. I had a deadline, and deadlines are good for me. What I also had were titles to the tracks, which was also a great help as I tend to be lazy about finding material.
The first time I met Humayoun Shadhu I was struck by the beauty of the man, inner and outer. It was at a festival and he was constantly surrounded by people so I had no conversation with him but I sat near him for almost a whole day. People came to pay their respects to him, gave him fruit, incense and the like, touched his feet, spent some time listening to the songs being sung, and went on their way.
In early April this year a group of Islamic hardliners turned up at Mohammad Fakir’s Shadhu Shongo in Pangsha, a village in rural Bangladesh. A Shadhu Shongo is a yearly meet of shadhus, the mystic bauls of Bengal. The bauls sing devotional songs which outline their philosophy of religious freedom. Allah, Krishna, God and Buddha are all one they say, and there should be no bitterness or rivalries between members of the religions surrounding them.
On V-Day 2010 one of my best friends was visiting me in Dhaka. She is also an actress so I was on the lookout for shows to see while she was in town. So when I heard that the Vagina Monologues was being presented in Dhaka for the first time I booked immediately. I’d seen the show some years previously in Delhi and was interested to see it again in Bangladesh.
The first time I was asked to act in a TV commercial in Bangladesh I was entertained by the idea of getting on a set and seeing how it’s really done. I’d recently finished working for 9 months at the BBC World Service Trust in Dhaka and knew from my experience of visiting local sets that things here were done very differently indeed.
Having not had any food before I left home it seemed like a good idea to search out snacks for the journey to Kushtia, around a 6 hour bus journey from Dhaka. The “healthiest” thing I could find was dim paratha, a fried bread folded over and stuffed with egg. Fried food on the street is always a dangerous affair as the oil can have been sitting around and reused over a period of weeks. Even so it can sometimes prove irresistible. The people in the joint I bought it from were pretty irresistible too, pouring praise on my spoken Bangla, which, as always, gave me an immense amount of pleasure. One of my greatest pleasure during all my time in Bangladesh was the ecstatic reactions I got when I spoke Bangla.
After a few days of working outside here by the sea, under the sky, often under the stars, there are things i am beginning to notice more than i might normally. Something seems to be making my senses work more clearly.
The different textures of ground beneath the feet – from brick and cement, through grass and mud – both sludgy and thick – to the many various types of sand.
PiNiK is a play in Bangla devised by Imogen Butler-Cole for THEWHATWORKS with a group of actors from Prachyanat (Koinnya; Raja; Circus Circus) for Alo (an Organisation for Drug Awareness) in order to combat the problem with drugs – predominantly heroin and yabba – prevalent on the streets of Dhaka and throughout Bangladesh.
I still remember vividly my first proper excursion out of Gulshan (the ex-pat poshy part of town where the BBC rocks its roost). Out of the home-car-office-car-home routine that had so far made up my days as London-based work deadlines kept drawing me back home after office hours, and out of the confines of the desk-computer-phone part of my job for a taste of the real stuff – a play, a veritable play