26 Nov 2023

Gamblers, monks and courtesans: a fifth century play in 2023

From Culture 101, 2:00 pm on 26 November 2023
The Clay Cart

The Clay Cart Photo: Supplied

Shekinah Jacob

Shekinah Jacob Photo: Supplied

Prayas Theater is bringing the masterpiece, The Clay Cart or Mricchakatika to stage in an adaptation for modern audiences. Adapted from the original fifth century script by Auckland-based playwright, Shekinah Jacob, it’s an ambitious project for the country’s largest South-Asian theatre company.

Featuring romance, tragedy, comedy and social commentary, with a cast of seventeen including gamblers, thieves, monks and courtesans, it sounds like something right out of a Shakespeare - only The Clay Cart was written 11 centuries earlier.

The story of a poor honourable man and a rich courtesan, it’s one of India’s most enduring works and one of its most celebrated plays in the west. It is significant in the canon for being focused on a fictional scenario, rather than based on a classic tale or legend.

Shekinah Jacob trained at the Royal Court Theatre in London. She spoke to Culture 101’s Perlina Lau about the task of adapting a fifth century script and how she’s making it relevant and entertaining for today’s audiences. 

The Clay Cart opens November 29 at TAPAC Performing Arts Centre, Tāmaki Makaurau.