Written by Peter Oswald
Directed by Kathryn Hunter
Assistant Director: Ragga Dahl Johansen
Artistic Associate: Jatinder Verma (Tara Arts)
Composer and Musician: Mrityunjoy
Cast: Kali Chandrasegaram; Gavi Singh Chera; Harry Gostelow; Adam Karim; Nadia Nadarajah; Neerja Naik; Irfan Shamji; Julia Tarnoky
At school, he wasn’t allowed to sit on a chair. He had to sit on the ground on a sack. He couldn’t drink water out of the jug provided for the others, but had to wait till it was poured for him into his special cup. The teachers would beat the other pupils but him they threw clods of earth at. Why? He was an ‘Untouchable.’ It was a miracle he was at school at all. And he grew up to be Doctor Bhimrao Ambedkar, independent India’s first Law Minister, chair of the committee that wrote the constitution. Six weeks before his death he converted to Buddhism, and took hundreds of thousands of ‘untouchables’ with him. So, did Ambedkar work hand in hand with Gandhi and the other non-violent freedom fighters? No, his vision was starkly opposed to Gandhi’s, and this play shows their separate colliding paths and Gandhi’s ‘fast to the death’ against Ambedkar’s policy.
Moving between the worlds of the gods and the Indian street, from myth to propaganda, from an ‘untouchable’ boy to the Round Table Conference in London, this play shows the intensity of India’s struggle to win for itself not just independence but justice for all its citizens. Today Ambedkar’s constitution makes ‘untouchability’ illegal, but it remains imprinted on Hindu minds, and the struggle goes on. And in this struggle the figure of Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar – Bhim - is becoming increasingly important, as the oppressed turn more and more to this beacon of humanity.
Peter Oswald was Writer in Residence at Shakespeare’s Globe, where three of his verse plays were performed. Other plays of his have been produced at the National Theatre, in the West End, on Broadway and around the world, including his version of the Ramayana, at Birmingham Rep and the Olivier. His version of Schiller’s Mary Stuart, directed by Phyllida Lloyd, won the South Bank Award. He is a founder member of Columbina Theatre company, for which he writes and performs. His published poetry includes Sonnets of Various Sizes (Shearsman Books) Weyland (Oberon Books) Three Folktales (Letterpress.) In 2016 he received a Society of Authors Travelling Scholarship. ‘The astonishing Peter Oswald,’ Society of Authors. At present he is touring, with Columbina, his version of the Icelandic saga of the Viking poet Egil. He lives in Devon with his wife Alice and three children.
Actress and director. RADA graduate.
There will be a post-show Q&A following the performance on Wed 5 July.
There will be a pre-show at 6pm on Thu 6 July with:
Kathryn Hunter, Director
Peter Oswald, Writer
Jatinder Verma, Artistic Associate
Ciaran Maguire, Chief Executive Officer, The Karuna Trust
Specific performances on Wed 5, Thu 6, Sat 8 (see above) will be British Sign Language (BSL) interpreted and captioned for D/deaf, deafened and hard of hearing audiences. Read more about BSL and captioned performances here.