Curry and Chips – how a panto built a triangle of friendships between a church, a temple and a theatre company

On Sunday February 9th members of St Edmund’s Church in Tyseley and the Shree Hindu Community Centre came together to perform a pantomime called Curry and Chips. Pravin Sangani, a key organiser an motivator of the event writes about how it came about:

During the summer of last year Vicar of St Edmund’s Church Tyseley (Church), Committee members of Shree Hindu Community Centre (Temple) and office bearers of Near Neighbours (NN) met at the temple with a view to foster better relationship between Christian and Hindu communities. As such there were no issues to resolve but there was very limited interaction between these two communities in Tyseley.  After usual introductions and other  formalities, all present thought of planning the activities to bring two communities closer.  At coffee break, I suggested to Jessica Foster mainly in jest that we should have pantomime at Christmas and ‘clowns’ from both faiths can deliver the message which could be more effective than having serious theological discussions. Somehow, Jessica took the joke more seriously than I thought. Both of us being interested in the theatre soon saw the potential of the proposal.

Fortunately, Jessica knew about the activities and the ability of Women and Theatre who specialise in the community theatre. Church, Temple and Theatre deliberated on the proposal and its practicalities and put a funding proposal to NN which was duly approved. It soon transpired that pantomime was not a very practical idea and by the time the funding was approved, mounting a successful project at Christmas 2012 would have been very risky. Women & Theatre came up with the idea of writing a script bottom up, where both Christian and Hindu participants brain storm the issues that will make a good drama. Everybody agreed around a realistic plot where a young Hindu student from India stays as paying guest with not so young land lady in Tyseley and the religious, social and cultural challenges it creates for both and their relations.

Women & Theatre coached all the participants to think of the scenes and situations to support the above stated plot. This proved very interesting indeed, all the barriers started disappearing and the participants blended as a team. One of the major catalyst was when the ladies from both faiths were practicing for a Hindu stick dance and where all the ladies had to wear Indian costumes. The enthusiasm and dedication of Therese Collins and Liam Walsh from Women & Theatre was undiminishing particularly at the testing time when we had to reschedule the original date of performance due to heavy snow fall on and around 20 Jan 2013. There were other practical issues like unavailability of all cast at very few practices planned. Women & Theatre always had plan B in their locker.

The rescheduled date of Sunday 10 Feb 2013 arrived with the fear of snow. This time prayers from both Church and Temple were answered and all the star cast and an audience in excess of 100 could remain present. Right from the beginning, the audience was very responsive and the whole play went flawless. There was a planned audience participation situation which went well. At the refreshment time, there was an inquiry from another Hindu organisation if we could do a repeat performance.

Without doubt, a lot of acquaintances struck and friendship established between the members of both the faiths. Revd. Steve Simcox has invited all present to visit the Church and the Temple has asked everybody to walk in as and when but particularly at the official ceremony of the new floor project within next 3 months. My tip for further successful events is that there is a lot of creative energy within groups and all the ideas deserve research. It is amazing how they can be successfully implemented with dedication and enthusiasm.

 

Pravin Sangani

Church, Hindu, Interfaith, Panto, temple, Tyseley

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