I swear there was magic in the air last Friday evening. There were many young kids in the crowd to see Anjali talk of her Banyan Tree and dance in Canada. I felt like one of them as all of us were enchanted and delighted to silent admiration.
Centaur Theatre is hosting Theatre Direct’s and Geordie Production’s play Beneath the Banyan Tree, about a young girl, Anjali, who struggles with adapting her personality to fit her new surroundings upon her arrival in Canada. It’s push and pull as the young girl goes through the confusion of deciding which traditions to preserve and which to adopt. The question is hard enough for adults but can be even more challenging for their children.
Anjali grew up in Bangalore loving to dance and read Panchatantra, the fables of her homeland. With a rich imagination, the young girl keeps a piece of home with her at all times by having an imaginary friend act as a guide and confidant in the banyan tree she used to talk to back home. She summons her faithful friend each and every time she was confused or worried about a cultural situation.
The story mainly unfolds over the course of the Anjali’s birthday. The morning before school, her grandmother presents the young one with her gift, handmade Indian clothing, that Anjali is reluctant to wear at school for fear of ridicule. Some of her friends are excited and interested about her Indian customs while others openly mock them. Anjali doesn’t know how to act in such situations. Eventually, with the support of her friends, both imaginary and real, she expresses herself in the form she enjoys most: dance. Anjali’s bharatanatyam dance is exquisite and she rejoices when the same dance elicits the interest and admiration of her peers. Ultimately, there’s a happy ending as she gains renewed appreciation for her culture and confidently embraces it in her new environment.
In the theatre, her imagination and her struggles at school are painted through charming acting, beautiful music and gorgeous traditional dancing choreographed by the internationally acclaimed bharatanatyam teacher, dancer and choreographer, Lata Pada. Personally, this production and performance made me experience the wonders of childhood again. It was an innocent, enchanting and lovely performance that kept children and parents alike captivated with delight. It’s a short and sweet show that you, as an adult, should find an excuse to see — and it’s definitely a beautiful story that the young ones will appreciate.
You can catch Anjali at Centaur Theatre on Feb 28 at 4 p.m. and March 1 at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Get your tickets here .