TONIGHT: Il riconoscimento di Sakuntala

Italian company take on an Indian classic tonight on campus.

Il riconoscimento di Sakuntala – una fiaba per tutte le eta comprises of narration and shadow theatre with puppets and masks and Indian dance. Written by Valeria Bianchi and based on the Indian play by the renowned Classical Sanskrit writer Kalidasa (a summary translation of the story in English is included in the programme), the performance by Compagnia Balagan (Rome) will take place tonight at the Atriju Vassalli, University of Malta, 20:30

Shakuntala is an important figure in Indian mythology because she is the mother of Bharata, the Emperor who unified all the lands of India. Daughter of an aesthete and a semi-divine godess, Sakuntala lives her youth in a sacred wood, in harmony with nature, far from the city and the tempatations of everyday life.

The play depicts the legendary King Dushyanta, who falls in love with Shakuntala. Dushyanta woos and marries her. But Shakuntala is then cursed by an old sage, so that Dushyanta is bewitched into forgetting her existence. The only cure is for Shakuntala to show him the signet ring that he gave her. Not knowing of the spell, Shakuntala awaits the return of her spouse who has forgotten her existence. When she realises that she is going to have a child she decides to go to the palace. Shakuntala loses the ring while crossing a river and when she arrives at the palace, Dushyanta cannot be persuaded that she is his wife. At this point Shakuntala is whisked away by her mother. Menaka.

Fortunately, the ring is discovered by a fisherman in the belly of a fish, and Dushyanta realises his mistake - too late. The newly wise Dushyanta defeats an army of Titans, and is rewarded by Indra with a journey through the Hindu heaven. Returned to Earth years later, Dushanta finds Shakuntala and their son by chance, and recognises them and they are able to live a happy life together.

The performance

The original drama was written sometime between 1 BC and 4 AD by Kalidasa in Sanskrit and Maharashtri Prakrit, and served largely to establish Maharashtri as the classical dramatic Prakrit. The drama plays on universal themes such as abandonment, sorrow, heroism and love in a delightful weave of narration and fantasy.

This is a story for all ages, a meeting of art, colours, sounds and the contradications of India. It is an attempt to evoke an atmosphere in which the western audience can lose themselves in a world of magic and fable.

This is achieved through theatrical techniques which include the use of two glove puppets, a string marionette, shadows and silhouettes as well as Gotipua dance and masks from the Chou dance of Jharkand. These elements are brought together with music, perfume and Indian flavours.

Tickets are at €8 for adults, €5 for children, and can be bought at the door.