Three Sat Under the Banyan Tree

Reviewed by Flossie Waite
A Polka Theatre and Tara Arts Production
Playing at Polka Theatre until 21st October 2018
For ages 7+

Three Sat Under the Banyan Tree is the first ever UK stage adaptation of the Panchatantra, a 4,000 year old collection of animal stories described as India’s Aesop’s Fables. Shamser Sinha’s script puts the collection to its original purpose as a guide to life: three orphans, fleeing a king and escaping across the Himalayas, open the magical book under the branches of a Banyan tree to find important life lessons contained within its stories.

Photo: Craig Fuller

There’s the headstrong little crow, who pursues truth and justice even when the adults don’t agree; the loyal mongoose who finds a family and will do anything to protect it, and the tiger who meets a gentle gorilla with a penchant for chai. Three performers – Rose-Marie Christian, Raj Swamy and Medhavi Patel – use rhythm, audience interaction, movement, music and masks to play not only the three orphans but a whole host of animals, with versatility and humour.

Photo: Craig Fuller

Claudia Mayer’s phenomenal design is a highlight – her vibrant handheld animal masks and headdresses steal the show, each more breath-taking than the last, whilst still leaving plenty to the audience’s imagination, and allowing the performers’ ability to inhabit each character to shine through. Mayer’s simple, dusty-coloured set is also the ideal canvas for Amy Mae Smith’s evocative lighting design. Though the stories and the thread that runs through them can be a bit difficult to follow at times, Tara Arts and Polka Theatre’s production brings these tales vividly to life for those already acquainted, and those hearing them for the very first time.

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