'The Djinns of Eidgah'Ananya Mishra

Bread Theatre and Film Company is a fresh representative voice in performing arts, we produce distinctive cross-boundary theatre and art-forms that establish alternative narratives at the heart of artistic spaces.

Bread is not just a theatre group. It is a movement. My co-founder Ananya said this to me during one of our angst-filled sessions conceiving Bread. I am still grappling with what this means. A child of the postcolonial legacy, I grew up on a diet of Wilde, Coward, and Beckett, a product of empire in the mould Macaulay hoped: ‘a class who may be the interpreters between us and the millions we govern - Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in words, and in intellect.’ To me Bread represents a coming of age – the recognition of the colonial gaze that has shaped my identity, the ‘master’s tools’ that have equipped me with privilege. 

"The world exists in binaries: us and the other"

Yet this head swivel of recognition is less about my fractured identity, and more a reflection of the centuries-old structures of inequality of which we are all products. Fault lines of such an unequal society are both mirrored and reinforced in the Aristotelian performance narrative we are immersed in---good trumps evil, the hero wins the girl. The world exists in binaries: us and the other.

In this story, ‘us’ are products of power and privilege, the ‘other’ those on whom their gaze rests. The ‘other’ are there to play their role – a performative one - not for them the luxury of contradiction and complexity afforded to the centre. ‘Otheredness’ takes different forms – mine is the “otheredness” of falling between worlds. Of arriving in Cambridge to discover the falseness of my imagined kinship with empire. What stories then are mine to inhabit? Why is a Singaporean play considered alien while a Stoppard play considered universal?

And yet I still have a voice–what of the ‘others’ who don’t appear at all in the stories that are told? Where are they to be heard?

At Bread, we seek alternative narratives where histories of erasure are unlearnt. Stories in which the world we encounter on stage holds infinite possibility, binaries are challenged, and identities enfold pluralities and contradictions.

"Bread exists to tell stories that cause us to question and dissect our own identities and privilege"

‘There is nothing...nothing more dangerous than a ruler who’s been a slave before,’ says a soldier in Abhishek Majumdar’s script of Indian military oppression in Kashmir. ‘The best way to remember is by reinvention,’ says the civil servant in the chillingly curated perfection of Chong Tze Chien’s Singapore, where truth and myth mingle.


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The Narrative and the Body

Empire casts long shadows. Monsters lurking under our beds where we are too scared to look. How else have we reached this place where we need to be reminded that Black Lives Matter? Bread exists to tell stories that cause us to question and dissect our own identities and privilege. Stories in which our imaginations are stretched to impossible places---worlds inconceivable when we are trapped in our familiar binaries---and exposed to perspectives that allow for a new seeing, at once from all places. It is only by such a reimagining that learned histories can be unlearnt, and the structures of inequality inherent in empire can fall.

And so Bread is a movement, a reimagining. ‘I stood on the border,’ said Toni Morrison, ‘stood on the edge, and claimed it as central and let the rest of the world come over to where I was.’

Suchitra Sebastian is the co-founder of Bread Theatre and Film Company

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