A remarkable amount of work goes into producing the shows we enjoy in May. The international story behind As a Tiger in the Jungle is a fine example: the show’s roots connect Nepal, India, and Wales. The show is also significant locally, as the first recipient of the South East Dance Brighton Fringe Bursary, giving audiences an idea of the kind of work they’ll be supporting in their Dance Space, launching in 2020.
Between 2004 and 2011, Philip Holmes headed a programme that rescued 700 Nepalese children from exploitative circuses in India. Some older returnees were interested in vocational training and finding work, resulting in the formation of contemporary circus troupe Circus Kathmandu. As a Tiger…’s Creative Producer Ali Williams – founder of Cardiff-based contemporary circus group NoFit State – spent a year working with young people from Circus Kathmandu in 2013. Williams aimed to teach them about how contemporary circus is different from traditional circus, “how it could be empowering, fun, and could change their lives”.
In 2016, Ali and As a Tiger… Director Sverre Waage began research and development with two rescued children, Aman and Renu, who star in the show. Ali tells me that “we’ve recreated what circus is and what it can be. They understand what circus is, they’ve learned how to rig, they’re earning money: they’re in control of their own lives.”
Aman and Renu are now in their twenties, and will be joined on stage by a third performer, who uses spoken word, dance and physical theatre to help tell their story. The tiger of the title is a fourth character of sorts, a metaphor for the human traffickers, which appears “throughout the story in different guises, such as noises, recordings and as a Chinese tiger dragon”.
Ali explains that despite the serious subject matter, the show celebrates how Aman and Renu have now turned their lives around. “It’s a heartwarming, moving performance with lots of exciting circus theatre and dance, telling a very purposeful and meaningful story about these young people’s lives. We use the skills that they learnt in the circus to tell their own story, so that makes it a very authentic show.
“We’re using Nepali culture: their music, their style of dance and mixing it with our culture of storytelling theatre, physical theatre, the things that we do, as Europeans. For the soundtrack we used Nepali and Indian musicians with a Norwegian composer, so the music is a mixture of Nepali Indian influenced by Western fusion, and that’s how we see the show as well. It’s a fusion of cultures and a collaboration between east and west.”
Brighton Open Air Theatre, 22nd-25th May, 7.30pm, Sat 25th May, 2pm (BSL/AD/relaxed) brightonopenairtheatre.co.uk