Class Act Mumbai
In January 2018 Class Act from the Traverse Theatre travelled to
India to work with Rage Theatre and 60 young people in Mumbai,
writes Traverse Creative Producer Sunniva Ramsay.
For over twenty-five years Class Act has been connecting young
people with professional playwrights to develop and write their own
scripts for the stage. Following a process of creative workshops,
the finished plays are performed by a professional company. The key
objectives are to expand literacy skills, encourage active
contribution in group situations and develop confidence.
One of the reasons why Class Act has been so effective is
because it is malleable in being able to respond to the young
people taking part. As such, the programme is eternally
With this in mind, we were incredibly excited to take the project
to Mumbai and hear the voices and ideas of young people from across
the city, and to see how they made Class Act their own.
Rage had identified 11 schools to work with, bringing together
60 young people from different areas of the city. From the
introductory workshop, it was clear that the creativity and energy
of the participants would generate wonderful stories and
"I am most excited for this workshop for working with some very
wonderful people, as well as the actors and the directors - these
role models who I've grown up watching … I am really excited that I
am going to be learning first hand from them."
Two award-winning Scottish playwrights - Stef Smith and Nicola
McCartney - delivered workshops alongside four leading Indian
writers: Irawati Karnik, Akash Mohimen, Shaili Sathyu and Karishma
Attari. Each group had a dedicated Indian Playwright mentor who
shadowed the Scottish Playwright tutor, learning more about the
delivery of the Class Act model, while also supporting the Scottish
artists in understanding more about the cultural backgrounds of the
The young people were put into groups based on what they were
interested in writing about thematically, meaning that they were
working with others from different schools and areas. Themes were
far ranging, taking in aspiration, corruption, war, religion, love,
friendship, human rights and fairy stories. The rooms were filled
with fun, laughter, debates, conversations and vibrant stories told
in both English and Hindi.
Half way through, we asked the young people to consider how
their work would translate from page to stage. We then held
script development workshops with professional directors and
actors. These sessions always prove a turning point for Class Act
participants, as the first time they hear professional actors
read the works aloud. This was also the first time Indian actors
were involved in the process and they were delighted by the
imaginations of the young people and relished the creative
challenge of working on the scripts. With heads buzzing with ideas,
it was then back to the workshop room to put pen to paper and
The heart of Class Act will always be the process of creative
workshops, yet the excitement and energy that surrounds the final
performance nights cannot be denied. These took place at the
Prithvi Theatre, with 10 new plays on each night. We were delighted
that both performances sold out, and the auditorium was filled with
supportive friends and family.
Working with the young people of Mumbai and the Indian artists
was a truly inspirational experience. All of us at the Traverse are
especially grateful to the British Council, Creative Scotland and
the Scottish Government for supporting this enriching cultural
exchange. Between the Traverse and Rage, we are keeping
conversations going and thinking about what future collaboration
might look like.
I am often asked by project partners why Class Act has been so
successful, and for so long. At its heart, the project is about
sharing: sharing ideas, sharing stories and sharing
experiences. Theatre exists in one live moment in time. But
when we sit together as an audience in the Prithvi Theatre in
Mumbai or in Traverse 1 in Edinburgh, we share, together. This
experience transcends a moment and Class Act encapsulates that
Class Act Mumbai lasted for 14 days, but the experience of
sharing their stories will stay with these young people and our
artists for years to come. In the spirit of Class Act, the final
words should go to one of our brilliant Class Act Mumbai young
writers, encapsulating what the project is all about:
"Class Act is not just a simple act
for me to become a playwright but is also a combination that I will
learn many values from. Like teamwork, I'll meet new people.
I think I can take these values further into my life."
Class Act Mumbai is part of the British Council's
UK/India 2017 Season and is supported by the British Council,
Creative Scotland and the Scottish Government.
For press-specific queries, please contact Traverse Press and
Media Officer Anna Docherty, on firstname.lastname@example.org.