In the month of independence, the disability-inclusive theatre play “Noishobde Ekattor (’71 in Silence)” was staged on 9 and 10 March at National Theatre, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy. Produced by the British Council in partnership with Dhaka Theatre, the performance features 15 artists with disabilities from eight divisional cities of Bangladesh and focuses on the country’s Liberation War through different acting methods.
When it comes to theatre practices in Bangladesh, disability-inclusive theatre in general is still an area which is in its developing phase in Bangladesh, and the British Council Bangladesh is currently leading the works of disability arts since 2013 when it comes to inclusive theatre. ‘Noishobde Ekattor’ is one of those productions which tried to portray the calibre of the artists with disabilities by introducing different theatrical methods on stage which is not quite common in the local theatre arena. A silent theatre piece that portrays the story of the birth of Bangladesh – how it was before, how the war started and the consequences of the war; ‘Noishobde Ekattor’ tells a journey which is narrated using physical storytelling techniques on stage.
Physical Storytelling tends to be a bit more abstract than the regular theatre and focuses on involving improvisational movements to depict the stories on stage. As the theatre piece, ‘Noishobde Ekattor’ did not have any specific dialogue, it was an experiment to narrate the scenarios, the stories though the movement of the performers. There were artists with speech and hearing impairments, physical disabilities and visually challenged artists who have dedicatedly worked on learning the processes to display it on stage.
The theatre piece is directed by Ramesh Meyyappan, a Glasgow-based theatre maker who develops performances using an eclectic mix of visual and physical theatre styles. Ramesh continually seeks to develop and extend his theatrical visual vocabulary. He enjoys the challenge of creating strong narrative visual work.
“When I was explained the significance of the sign name of Bangladesh, I realised the true passion behind the nation’s history. The eagerness this bold ensemble has shown in portraying this history through eloquent expression of pain and suffering is truly unmatched. I would like to ask the audience to come and see the show to give this group of people an opportunity to use their voices – taking us a step closer to ensuring that all voices are heard and seen”, said Ramesh.
“I knew nothing about the war and the plight of the people here during that time, I was not surprised by the ensemble groups eagerness to explore this more and tell the story. 1971 as presented by this ensemble is their understanding of their history, their war, their suffering and genocide. They wanted people to know the stories of the Bengali women who faced double discrimination; having suffered multiple rape from the Pakistani armies they were then ostracized by their own people. These women bore the greatest burden of war”, he added.
Noishobde Ekattor has been produced as a part of celebrating The British Council’s 70th anniversary in Bangladesh and also Bangladesh’s 50th year of independence. This play is a part of the DARE (Disability Arts Redefining Empowerment) project led by the British Council in partnership with Dhaka Theatre. DARE was launched in 2019 in partnership with Dhaka Theatre. Since then, it has been working in eight divisional cities in Bangladesh where both artists with disabilities and artists from local theatre organisations are participating together in order to get a better idea about how to work on disability theatre to create a sustainable platform on disability arts. The performers of this theatre piece have been selected through the inclusive theatre workshops in all eight divisional cities during the past couple of years.