Youth bring Hindu epic The Ramayana to life

Dhiren Katwa Monday 10th July 2017 05:58 EDT

Fast-rising actor and youth director Bhavik Parmar appears as the monkey God, Hanuman, in The Ramayana, the Hindu epic. I caught up with him and the production’s director Daniel Tyler to find out more about them and the production.

The Ramayana, presented by The Young REP 18-25 Company, the youth arm of Birmingham Repertory (REP) Theatre, brings to life the complex, but fascinating story of good over evil. The Ramayana, in Bhavik’s words, “explores how the world will continuously fathom in negativity, where evil intent, a lack of care and inequality will stay rife, however with hope and faith, the world has enough courage and strength to overcome these hindrance. For this reason it is a story that will forever stay relevant.”

The hour-and-a-half performance, featuring a cast of 15, follows the exiled Lord Rama’s adventures as he endeavours to rescue his wife Sita from the clutches of the ten-headed demon Ravana. Aided  by his brother Lakshman and friends they meet along the way, Rama’s journey takes him through forests and over oceans to strange and foreign lands, before he is able to return to his home kingdom of Ayodhya.

Rewinding back to his childhood, “I was told stories of The Ramayana in my mother-tongue, Gujarati,” said Bhavik. “I came across many words I did not know the meaning of, phrases I did not understand and many teachings that left me confused with questions. Taking part in this performance gave me the opportunity to research my religion.” Speaking of his part as Hanuman, “there were moments where I looked towards members of the audience, especially young children and felt a connection with them. There were moments where parents turned to their children and said that’s Hanuman as I crouched near them.”

Bhavik, aged 24, is Education Officer at Birmingham REP which entails him delivering drama workshops and directing youth theatre shows across Birmingham and the West Midlands. Previously he was Youth Theatre Director at Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham. He also runs his own children’s entertainment company. He graduated in 2014 from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London, with a BA (Hons) in Drama, Applied Theatre & Education.  While at university, he had the opportunity to perform as Michael in Peter Pan at the Minack Theatre, Cornwall. Born in Jamnagar in Gujarat, the western coast of India, Bhavik moved to England in 1996, settling in Leicester.

Daniel Tyler, who is of Anglo-Indian heritage, is Director of The Ramayana, and Head of Education at Birmingham REP.  He explained how this version of The Ramayana was premiered at Birmingham REP 15 years ago and was selected for production this year due to “its engaging and entertaining writing as well as being a great approach to sharing the religion and mythology of a vastly significant proportion of our city and region’s population.”

What next, I asked Daniel: “The company’s project for 2017-18 is yet to be decided but we know it will be another exciting challenge and we will always hope to keep the same level of energy and fun that we’ve experienced with The Ramayana.

The Young REP is over 300-strong and has members from ages 7 to 25. Each member has the opportunity to perform in a production at The Birmingham REP each academic year.

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