By Laura Drane, Producer, Caitlin
Caitlin, the award-winning dance production was chosen to take part in the Wales in Kolkata season. Here producer Laura Drane describes their experience in Kolkata, which is often referred to as the culture capital of India
CAITLIN by Light Ladd & Emberton, has been touring on and off since its commission in 2014 as part of the Dylan Thomas centenary. In 2017, it was selected to be part of the British Council Edinburgh Showcase - an opportunity for UK theatre companies to introduce their work to international promoters - and this tour to Kolkata, India has been as a direct result of that.
In January 2019, four leading Welsh artists and arts organisations; Light Ladd & Emberton, Theatr Iolo, Gary Raymond, and the Dylan Thomas Prize flew to Kolkata in India to present their works of theatre, dance and literature.
As part of that, Light Ladd & Emberton performed at the TATA Steel Kolkata Literary Meet, one of the most prestigious literary festivals in the country, and at other venues in Kolkata and Bolpur/ Santiniketan.
Wales In Kolkata, the season of Welsh arts activity and collaboration, was supported by Wales Arts International and the British Council. This festival was a result of the relationships and networks formed by the 2017-18 India Wales season, a major programme of artistic collaboration between Wales and India.
Light Ladd & Emberton, partnering with the Kolkata-based Pickle Factory Dance Foundation, performed the immersive dance production, CAITLIN. The acclaimed show, staged at the Goethe Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan, chronicles the infamous Welsh poet Dylan Thomas’ tumultuous relationship with his wife Caitlin.
Throughout the festival Light Ladd & Emberton also undertook workshops. Initially they travelled to Santiniketan in the north of Kolkata for a workshop with the students of Kala Bhavana, a centre for visual art practice and research. Then with schools and young people in partnership with Think Arts, who facilitate arts events for children and young adults. The next was a lecture at Javadpur university in Kolkata with theatre enthusiasts. And then a workshop at Padatik, a theatre space in Kolkata, all the time sharing our skills and creative knowledge.
Eddie Ladd, one of Wales’ leading dance and performance artists, who performs in CAITLIN, took part in a panel discussion with Ayesha Jalal, a Pakistani-American historian and grand-niece of renowned Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto, and Samantak Das of Jadavpur University on Troubled Geniuses: Dylan Thomas and Manto, at the Kolkata Literary Meet.
Although all of this was valuable, the most meaningful was at the start of our trip at Kala Bhavana, a centre for visual art practice and research. The campus is a wonderful series of open gathering spaces between extraordinary artistic buildings, with students focussing on visual arts and design in all forms, from murals to print making to sculpture; there are other departments too in the university, ranging from economics to engineering.
The students we met and worked with were not studying performance arts, though many had a grasp of these through their own creative and extracurricular activities (e.g. classical Indian dance, amateur theatre, singing/music-making). We also had an interesting tour of the campus facilities, including the museum and house of Tagore, the Nobel prize winning poet.
The Head of department there made a particular impression on us, talking about his own experiences of making and touring arts in India and abroad, as well as the challenges and opportunities they face, which resonated greatly with many similar ones we face in Wales – about funding and resources, about political support and the wider socio-cultural context, and ultimately about the benefits as he see them of bringing in international artists/creatives like us.
Often we can think about these sorts of trips as feeding our creative processes and ideas – but they’re more nuanced than that. We learned a lot about ourselves, we learned a lot about India and the people we met and worked with there, and of course we hope they feel likewise, both through seeing the show and engaging with us in lectures, workshops and more.
We would also love to see more of the work that is made in India, and we hope that meeting us has also somehow inspired people to know more about our country, to see more Welsh work when possible, and maybe even come to Wales.
Of course, none of this would be possible without the support of funders, stakeholders and other partners. CAITLIN was a National Library of Wales commission for DT100 (2014). This production was supported by Wales Arts International and British Council, with TATA Steel Kolkata Literary Meet and Pickle Factory Dance Foundation; and Chapter and Oakleigh House School; plus local partners including Goethe Institut/ Max Mueller Bhavan, Padatik, Think Arts, and Kala Bhavana, Santiniketan.