It’s the mark of a great story when it lives with you long after you’ve seen it, and for As a Tiger in the Jungle this is undoubtedly the case.
The story is a biographical retelling of two Nepalese siblings, who became victims of child trafficking and were sold as slaves to an Indian circus. After enduring years of abuse and exploitation at the hands of their captors, Renu and Aman were rescued by a charity called ChoraChori, who subsequently supported them in their further education and training. Choosing to continue nurturing their passion for circus, they reclaim their future and take back the dream of performing that was mis-sold to them by their traffickers. It is a gift to us that they managed to rewrite their story, not only in terms of their real-life happy endings, but in the form of this performance.
As a Tiger in the Jungle explores the pain endured by Renu and Aman as a result of their stolen childhood, and it’s inspiring to see them using the very skills that were borne from their dark past to create something beautiful and share their experiences with the world. Along with Catriona James, the third actress in their trio, they journey with us through a delightful mishmash of poetry, circus and dance.
The choreography is breathtaking – they are clearly very skilled performers, pulling off gravity-defying stunts effortlessly. The set paints a picture of a rundown circus, constructed with bamboo and Indian fabrics.
Catriona James plays the role of the narrator, who performs her storytelling duties with consistently high energy. The story itself is rich in poetry and metaphors, though at times this is quite abstract, and the meaning may be lost on some. Regardless, it is a striking exploration of the pain they experienced as victims of human trafficking, or ‘the tiger’. It’s very raw and real. Though the overall experience is engaging and well executed, the overarching narrative could be more clearly defined. The show doesn’t seem as much about telling their story, as exploring their emotional turmoil.
As inspiring as it is to see the journey of Renu and Aman, there is a sense of discomfort that comes from being entertained by circus performers using the very skills that were forced upon them. Then again, being confronted by the reality of human trafficking isn’t a comfortable experience, but it is a valuable one. To witness first-hand the echoes of trauma that linger with the performers feels very real and is a memory I won’t soon forget.
Image Credit: As a Tiger in the Jungle.