Monday, 17 January, 2022

Orna: Ayna Arts has done it once again

Orna: Ayna Arts has done it once again

‘Ayna Arts’, a theatre group from Manchester UK, has recently staged the drama ‘Orna- the Cover’ as part of the ‘Freedom and Independence Theatre Festival’ in London.

The writer, co-director and one of the actors of the drama ‘Orna’, Jesmin Chowdhury, has lived up to her reputation as a brave feminist writer. 

The whole drama was based on a short story called ‘An autobiography of an Orna’ that Jesmin had written a few years ago. Just from this title I think one can begin to imagine what the storyline might be.

A blue and white Tangail orna has been found in the drain and when other ornas come forward to help her out of there, she refuses to come out saying that the drain was a better place than living the life of an orna, and starts telling the story of her life.

Later in the play this orna is given to a young girl as a gift by her shopkeeper father who believes that women can avoid being raped simply by covering themselves properly. The young girl wearing that same orna goes to the park to meet her boyfriend; very modestly dressed but still she is attacked and gang raped by a bunch of goons.

The writer used her extreme intelligence in the way she blew life into the ‘Ornas’ which became walking talking characters, hence the simplicity of the costumes being very effective. It helped to keep the audience’s grip on the main topic.

Director Apu Choudhury and the writer/co-director Jesmin Chowdhury, along with their entire team, have pulled out another tooth from victim-blaming misogynists leaving them open-mouthed and bleeding; not knowing how they should react to a subject they find extremely uncomfortable to talk about.

How the society blames a woman for the way she walks, talks and dresses; how misogynistic jokes are made in the open providing a huge majority of the male population, as well as some unthinking women, with entertainment was played out very clearly in this play.

Thought provoking and moving are some of the terms that my sisters, friends and I could come up with in the after-show dinner conversations. As always, Jesmin’s writings and dramas tend to generate discussion and debate on taboo subjects and that’s what attracts a lot of her audience. She tackles these subjects very clearly and cleverly and leaves the audience in a state of self-examination.

Each and every individual did more than their fair share by playing multiple characters. Portraying and representing most of the communities in our society- from a very practising religious group to the modern outgoing youngsters and even the transgender community- the play was something more than many of the viewers had expected and it turned into a wow factor.

A powerful subject played out in the simplest yet most effective manner. Even the background music was so appropriate that at times I thought I was watching some dramatic series on TV in my living room, and any theatre person would know that, this is not an easy thing to achieve. But they did it! Ayna Arts has done it once again!

Rumy Haque

Writer and Educationist