Fri 20th – Sat 21st April 2012


Amy Whetstone

at 23:00 on 20th Apr 2012



Opening in a blanket of darkness with the sole rays of light illuminating four blank masks, it is difficult to know what to expect from the amateur community group Theatre Folks of Oxford’s second ever production, "Jamuna."

Exploring the effect of war on women and based (albeit loosely) on the struggle of the renowned sculptor Ferdousi Priyabhasini , "Jamuna" tells the story of a Bangladeshi woman who has risen to fame through her art yet is hiding a crucial part of herself- her horrific past. Sexually abused during Bangladesh’s war of independence in 1971 and having mothered an illegitimate child, she is renounced by family and friends and forced to live independently. Though now professionally successful, she still has one secret that she wishes to make public- but will this be to the detriment of her two young daughters?

The play tells of the struggle for women to express, emancipate and assert themselves in a patriarchal world. Though set more than forty years ago, this is a topic that still resonates today and is explored here sensitively and expressively.

My main criticism refers to the script. Somewhat slow and lacking in originality and wit, this is a slight disappointment. Nevertheless, the translation was very effective given that the chief translators were two fourteen year old members of the cast - a very impressive achievement for some so young- and with all their schoolwork to do as well! However, the dramatic effects more than made up for the script’s shortcomings, the music proving especially emotive and distinctive, especially as integrated so beautifully with the multifaceted choreography. Perhaps slightly too much smoke for my taste, but I suppose that the troupe will learn this from experience... a room of ‘eau de smoke’ is not exactly the perfect setting to an enjoyable evening. But perhaps I’m being petty now.

With regards characterisation, the role changes are slick and the whole cast very professional and convincing. A special mention in this regard must go to the actress playing Jamuna, Selina Shelley, who gave a majestic performance in the title role and held the whole play together brilliantly.

Poignant, moving and thought-provoking, this is a production which really makes you reflect. The fought-back tears of the main actress in the encore say it all; this is a memorable experience for cast and audience alike. Keep your eyes peeled for more from this up and coming drama ensemble.


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