Diary: Rickshaw Theatre Project Part One – Delhi

The two Catherines and I have been working at Jan Madhyam (www.janmadhyam.org), an organisation on the outskirts of South Delhi in a village called Aya Nagar, which works with children, particularly girls, of all abilities. The village itself suffers from serious drainage problems, like many places in Delhi; this means the main street is flooded and we are only able to Jan Madhyam (JM) via a long detour on an auto-rickshaw. Unfortunately today our workshop has been cancelled due to the rain, which stopped most of the kids from coming in – hence finally having the time to sit in an internet cafe and write a blog post!

JM a small white-washed building, with two gardens and some indoor rooms for remedial learning, art, music, pottery and cooking. The atmosphere is extremely welcoming, and on the first day we were invited to join the weekly music lesson, where we attempted to play the drums and other percussion instruments. We were asked to sing, and having obliged with an obscure song Will taught us in Cambridge, the music teacher suggested that perhaps “Doe, A Deer” would be better…! We danced with the kids (not all are really kids, the ages range from 5 to 32) until we collapsed in a sweaty heap, but I think our efforts at least endeared us to them.

We have been assigned a group of 10-14 to work with in the first part of the afternoon, who will perform on Saturday with all the kids from the other two groups that the others in our team are working with in other parts of Delhi. Many of our group have hearing difficulties, and wear hearing aids (Archana, whose story you can read on the website at the moment, is one of them), and others have sight problems or have severe learning difficulties, and attend JM because they aren’t able to keep up at school, whilst others come to JM as an after-school activity. When we began working with the group on Monday we realised that they have very little experience with theatre games and movement and were quite – even saying their names with an action was too much for some of them. But once they were more used to us and more comfortable and familiar with the games and the style of thing we were going for, we started to see an improvement in this confidence straight away.

Only a few of the staff at JM speak any English, but we haven’t had any serious difficulties making ourselves understood – each day one of us leads the workshop, and the other two help, and serve as models/guinea pigs when an exercise needs explaining. Despite hearing difficulties, the songs and soundscapes that we have been doing with the group have been very popular. We have also worked on group physicalization, a 10-person monster, or a shoal of fish, and working in pairs on mirroring and leading/following. We have big plans for their performance on Saturday (also on Friday for their friends and family, we hope) and we’re really excited to get working on it with them this week. I can already feel that 2 weeks won’t feel like enough time at this lovely place!!


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