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  • Writer's pictureYak Pack Theatre Project

The Project begins

Today is the first day of the Yak Pack Theatre Project!

It’s the day before our first show in India.

Today is a story of 3 heroes.

The day started as it meant to go on, with heavy monsoon rains flooding the streets and gardens. The relentless rain had that ‘set in for the foreseeable’ feeling that’s so familiar to English people. Not wanting to repeat the car park experience, we had a delightful rehearsal space arranged in the gardens of the Malans hotel, which is set in the outskirts of Old Manali amongst rickety wooden homes with sheep and goats huddled in the understorey , spaced out by little plots of carefully tended produce. Delightful though it might be, unfortunately today was not the day for al fresco rehearsals.

Sunam, owner of the Art Café, was our first hero. He kindly agreed – without a moments hesitation - to let us use his café all afternoon as a rehearsal space. He completely saved the day. As I type this, Ben is singing with his guitar in the cafe to repay the favour.

We set up our new backdrop, rearranged the furniture and boom! Instant theatre!

Nitin is the second hero of today – he met Ben a couple of nights ago, a singer-guitarist, gigging in the back packer bars here. He’s a warm friendly chap, a natural performer, and speaks great English – that’s all our narrator boxes ticked so Ben asked if he’d like to join us for the show on Friday. We are lucky he said yes – he is amazing! We started with a simple performance (no props or costumes) so that he had an idea what it was all about. After watching the show, Nitin spent the afternoon carefully translating the narrators lines, which can be used in Spiti next week as well as here.

Our second run through included both Nitin – in at the deep end - and all the props and costumes (we had everything thank goodness!). A proper dress rehearsal show with a lovely little audience who played along beautifully. Nitin did an incredibly good job, and the actors managed well adapting their delivery to allow time for the translation. It flowed very naturally. The audience will be able to listen to the English then hear a translation straightaway which is great for language skills, and the repeating phrases further enhance that.

Fridays performance is at Handimachal, a day care centre for children with special needs about an hour away in Kullu. The road between Kullu and Manali is the one which was badly damaged by monsoon floods a couple of weeks ago. We had been unsuccessfully trying to call and check in with them all day – but when it rains here there is no internet and no phone network and often no electricity, so we hadn’t yet got through.

During the dress rehearsal, my phone buzzed – a message from Handimachal. There had been more monsoon flooding today in Kullu, they had been cancelling appointments all day and few children had been able to make it in to the centre. With more heavy rain and flooding predicted for tomorrow, and the main road already in a terrible state, the only option was to cancel the show. Gutted.

But with a great show ready to roll, and everyone still buzzing from the rehearsal, we weren’t going to give up just yet. Nitin and Ben had met the Handimachal doctor Vinay just a few nights ago. He was based at the Mission Hospital here in Manali, looking after the children with special needs who go to a local Manali school. Day Star School is a mainstream school, with a special needs unit incorporated. Ben had already talked to Vinay about the Project, so the stage was set for Vinay to become our third hero today, and ask if Day Star School might like to arrange an extremely last minute performance for their Special needs unit.

Vinay must have done a great job of explaining the Project as the answer was an enthusiastic yes. And not just the special needs kids either, the whole of the secondary and sixth form are coming too!

300 kids at 9am tomorrow morning – that will wake us up!

What could have been a day of disasters has been rescued by 3 lovely people who have gone out of their way to ensure that the Yak Pack Theatre Project is a success. Thank you, Sunam, Nitin and Vinay.

There is a blog on the Yak Pack website if you'd like to follow the project as it unfolds:

With love from The Yak Pack x

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