Before streaming A Little Drape of Heaven, part of Camden Fringe 2022, we were advised to “go to a closet, find a piece of clothing to hold close to your heart, and press play on the audio link”.
So, clutching my late mother’s jumper to my heart and, ignoring the puzzled look on my husband’s face, I pressed play on my laptop – only to be told the piece of clothing should belong to someone of the opposite sex.
To me, this is classed as audience participation which I hate. And though I was the only one in the audience (my husband having left the room), not in a million years was I going back to the wardrobe to find an item of his clothing to clutch.
Swati Das narrates in a lovely, sing-song voice and early on it’s clear she is the voice of a sari, being unwrapped after 10 years of being packed away.
And it’s not any old sari; it’s a Patola, doubly woven, made from silk in Patan, Gujarat, India. Their origins go back 850 years when made for royalty.
Thanks to Das’s animated voice, we can feel the garment’s sense of relief when freed from its wrappings. And hear its shock and delight when it realises it’s being draped around the slight figure of a 10-year-old boy, and not a bride-to-be.
This brought back memories of the sari’s maker – a young boy of the same age who worked day and night for 10 months to finish the sari because his father and uncle were ill with the plague.
Sari informs us that its type never fades, as the precious dyes used – turmeric, pomegranate, indigo, marigold and henna – are still as bright as the day it was created, even showing minute traces of the boy’s blood as he sneezed on to his creation all those years ago.
Unhappy at the fact that the boy today is draping the cloth wrongly, nevertheless, the sari is still full of awe that its six yards of silk are being thrown high into the air by a 4ft tall lad.
The sari informs us that 10 years ago it was draped over a fuller body, weighed down in gold watched by 1,000 eyes – worn by the daughter of a wealthy family.
Prepared to wait another 20 years before adorning the next daughter of the house, we clearly feel the sari’s delight that only 10 years pass before a boy – yes, a boy – delights in its beauty.
It’s the first time I’ve listened to a sari telling its life story, and it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. But Mahesh Dattani’s descriptive script meant I didn’t have to over-use my imagination.
Admittedly, I had to use Google to clarify the sari’s origins, spellings etc, but that was no hardship.
Towards the end of the 30-minute dialogue, time has passed, and we hear the clatter of typewriter keys. The sari-loving boy is now a man writing his story. The sari is still billowing out around him, not as bridal wear, but as a pair of curtains.
Well, it’s better than being packed away in a wardrobe for decades. I have a feeling it’s time to free my late mother’s jumper.
Presented by This Is Not a Theatre Company as part of the 16th Camden Fringe 2022. Running until Sunday, August 28th, 2022. Tickets cost £6. Visit https://camden.ssboxoffice.com/events/a-little-drape-of-heaven/
Reviewer: Jackie Foottit
Reviewed: 3rd August 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★