India’s greatest epic as dance theatre

For release: Wednesday 21 February 2007

World Premiere

A Sadler’s Wells co-production with Kalapi Jani for Gita Productions
India’s greatest epic as dance theatre
Sadler’s Wells Theatre
Wednesday 25 – Saturday 28 April 2007
Tickets £10 – £35
Ticket Office: 0870 737 7737
Free post-performance talk: Friday 27 April 2007

Mahabharata is a brand new piece of dance theatre and a contemporary vision of the epic ancient Indian poem. This powerful production features an international ensemble of 26 dancers, singers and musicians, and a specially composed score by celebrated polymath, Nitin Sawhney. The productions has its world premiere at Sadler’s Wells on Wednesday 25 April 2007 and tours the UK until July 2007.

The ensemble cast creates the story of the Mahabharata as seen through the eyes of Draupadi; a woman who defies her destiny to become wife to five brothers and who, lost in a game of dice, becomes the catalyst for the world’s most terrible war.

Directed by Stuart Wood and written by Olivier Award-winning lyricist Stephen Clark, the story inhabits a mythic world created through dance, song, spoken verse, Sanskrit prayer, chant and choric storytelling, reflecting the classic Indian tradition with a contemporary sensibility. Stuart Wood says “it is more than 20 years since Peter Brooks’ seminal version of the Mahabharata. It’s now time that this extraordinary story can be seen again in a new light.”

Multi-award winning Nitin Sawhney returns to Sadler’s Wells after creating the score for Akram Khan’s critically acclaimed zero degrees. Alistair Spalding says “Nitin Sawhney’s renowned ability to create a contemporary sound combining Western and Indian traditions makes it absolutely fitting for him to take on the music score for a modern-day Mahabharata. I’m sure that this, his first major score for dance theatre will re-affirm his place as one of today’s most prolific, influential and diverse music makers.”

Gauri Sharma Tripathi, one of the country’s leading kathak exponents and choreographer for Akram Khan, has created a new dance language for the piece, using a kathak vocabulary seen through a contemporary dance perspective. This language is enriched through puppetry work created by Sue Buckmaster Artistic Director of Theatre Rites.

Mahabharata is a total theatrical experience bringing together dance, theatre, music and illusion.

Supported by the Jerwood Studio at Sadler’s Wells

Press performance: Wednesday 25 April 2007 at 7.30pm

Images are available to download from:

For further press information, to arrange interviews or for press tickets please contact
Mary @MRPR on 0207 7491136 or email

Notes to Editors:

UK Tour details

25 – 28 April
Sadler’s Wells

15 – 19 May
Theatr Clwyd

22 -¬ 26 May
Theatre Royal Brighton

28 May – 2 June
Palace Theatre Manchester

5 – 9 June
Edinburgh Festival Theatre

19 – 23 June
Oxford Playhouse

25 – 30 June
Birmingham Alexandra Theatre

2 – 8 July
Leicester De Montfort Hall

For further information regarding the UK Tour please contact GCA on 0207 395 2603 or email

Synopsis of the Mahabharata
Originally written in more than one hundred and ten thousand stanzas the Mahabharata is considered the cornerstone of ancient Indian legend. The central story is a family feud between two groups of rival cousins, the five Pandavas and the hundred Kauravas.

Arjuna, second of the Pandava brothers wins the hand of the beautiful princess Draupadi at an archery contest. Taking his prize home, his mother unwittingly tells him to share it with his brothers. No word, once uttered in Mahabharata can be undone, and she is married to all five brothers. Duryodhana, eldest of the Kauravas is born to the sound of wolves and jackals. He is consumed by greed and hate of the Panadavas. Knowing Yudhistira, head of the Pandavas, and his weakness for gambling, he challenges him to a game of dice.

Intoxicated by the game, Yudishtira loses everything; lands, kingdom, his brothers, himself, even Draupadi. She is about to be stripped naked in front of the court when Krishna intervenes and performs a miracle to protect her modesty. Finally the Pandavas are condemned to thirteen years in exile. Draupadi swears revenge on the Kauravas. She shames her reluctant husbands to fight.

On the verge of the battle, Arjuna surveys all the kin who will be slain and cannot face his part in it. Krishna, his charioteer, stops the wheel of time and delivers the Bhagavad Gita. He reveals he is the Lord of the Universe and imbues Arjuna with a deeper understanding of his dharma.

The battle begins. It is the start of an apocalyptic war which sees mass destruction and bloody atrocity. When the war is finally over, and almost all soldiers on both sides are dead, one of the few survivors of Durydhan’s camp kills Draupadi’s children in their sleep. Hate and revenge never seem to end. Yet Draupadi unexpectedly turns the wheel of fate in a new direction.

Kathak is the story-telling dance tradition of Northern India. It combines virtuosic physical dexterity, energy and passion (Flamenco derives from Kathak) with a narrative sensibility. It combines sculptural beauty with a dance idiom that directly explores the themes and events in the world of the Mahabharata and the cosmos of the Hindu Gods.


Nitin Sawhney is one of the most influential and versatile creative artists working today, firmly established as a world-class producer, songwriter, DJ, multi-instrumentalist, orchestral composer, and cultural pioneer, working across a multitude of art forms including; music, dance, theatre and film. From his six albums he has received two EMMY awards, a Mercury Prize nomination, a South Bank Show Award for Popular Music and a MOBO award. He has written twenty five film scores, garnering an Ivor Novello award nomination, and has received recent commissions from the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the National Theatre who have asked him to write, direct and score his own play. Though Nitin has written music for Akram Khan’s dance company, this will be his first major dance theatre piece.

Stephen Clark’s plays include Making Waves, for the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, Stripped for Circle Theatre, Chicago, Take Away, Lyric Hammersmith (critic’s choice: Time Out, Independent and Guardian) also toured Manchester, Liverpool and Brighton, All Change at the Angel (Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London); Kate and the General (Nottingham and the Edinburgh Festival); A Twitch on the Thread (Belgrade Studio, Coventry) and Rock (Hackney Empire, London). Stephen is currently writing the lyrics and co-writing the book for Zorro, a new musical. Also in development is a musical based on Love Story and a new project with the Brodsky Quartet, with whom he has been working for several years.

Stephen was invited to participate in a series of master classes with Stephen Sondheim at Oxford University in 1990. Since then Stephen’s musical theatre work includes the book and lyrics for The Far Pavilions (West End), Icarus (Theatre Projects, Baltimore), Yusupov (Symonton Festival at the invitation of Andrew Lloyd Webber), Eyam (Old Firestation, Oxford and The Bridewell, London), Killing Rasputin (Bridewell Theatre, London) and the lyrics for the re-launched version of Martin Guerre (West End) for Cameron Mackintosh, for which he won an Olivier Award. Martin Guerre also toured both England and North America. He wrote the book and lyrics for Forbidden City, a musical which opened Singapore’s new Esplanade Theatre in 2002. He directed the Brodsky Quartet’s Song Show for the QEH London, Amsterdam and Iceland.

Stuart Wood developed the concept for Mahabharata with Nitin Sawhney and Stephen Clark in 2005 and conducted the two exploratory workshops in 2005 and 2006. His London productions include the premiere of Ionesco’s Journeys Among the Dead at The Riverside Studios, where he returned to direct an acclaimed revival of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide. Other London productions include Noel Coward’s Star Quality and Long Island Sound at the Theatres Royal Richmond and Windsor, the premieres of Adam & Eve, Falling Prey and Terrible Beauty at the Gate, Notting Hill. At Offstage he directed Theme and Variation, The Emperor Jones, Passengers and Durrenmatt’s The Marriage of Mr Mississippi at the New End Hampstead. Stuart directed the hit cult musical When Harry Met Barry, by Paul Emelion at the Gatehouse and a new version is planned for London at the end of 2007.
Gauri Sharma Tripathi has choreographed two pieces for Akram Khan: Ardhanareshwar and Ronin (depicting Arjuna’s turmoil on the battlefield). Gauri Sharma Tripathi is an exponent of the north Indian classical dance form of Kathak. She was taught by Guru Lacchu Maharaj. Gauri has also studied folk dance styles in India, incorporating other dance influences within her classical training and she has won critical acclaim in various dance festivals in India and abroad. She has also taken part in a number of prime TV serials. Presently Gauri teaches both in India and London.
Other work includes: solo Kathak performance at Royal Festival Hall, The National Gallery; Kathak tour in India with Gauri’s company ANKH; segment director for the Golden Jubilee parade; performance and choreographic piece presented at the Lowry theatre Manchester; choreographing of Rush for BBC’s Mega Mela organized and telecast from Birmingham; Kathak solo concerts in Nigeria, Munich, Berlin, Delhi, Mumbai; workshops and performance at the Heritage centre in Washington; performances at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Westminster Abbey for the commonwealth observance day. She performed in Coming of Age, a presentation by the Akademi of Indian dance at the South Bank Centre, London and recently concluded a tour in India; with performances in Delhi and the National Centre of Performing arts in Mumbai. She performed the role of Urvashi in the TV serial Mahabharat, directed by B.R. Chopra.

Sue Buckmaster is the Artistic Director of Theatre Rites. She has many years experience as a director, puppetry specialist and teacher. She has worked with the RSC, the Young Vic, the South Bank Centre, the Lyric Hammersmith, Theatre de Complicite, Leicester Haymarket, Opera Circus, Graeae, Tara Arts, Theatre Centre, Pop-Up Theatre, Roundabout TIE, the Crafts Council and the Puppet Centre. She has an MA in Contemporary Theatre Practice from Essex University, which included a thesis on The Psychoanalytical Theory of the Puppet Form.

Region: All
Venue: Sadler’s Wells Theatre
Venue Address: London
Press Tickets: Not Specified
Sponsorship: Not Specified
Press Tickets:
Name: Mary Rahman
Phone: 0207 7491136