Camden People’s Theatre’s annual Sprint Festival opens with poet and performer Siddhartha Bose’s multi-media one man show Kalagora (one of the stand-out spoken word shows of last year’s Edinburgh Fringe). The word means roughly black man/white man, neither one nor the other. As this title suggests the piece explores the idea of identity, both cultural and urban. Bose has lived in some of the greatest cities in the world and the piece charts his experiences, the highs and lows of the global urban environment.
The production is a mixture of poetry and performance evoking life in the cities of Mumbai, New York and London. Bose’s poetry is at its best when he is vividly describing these vibrant cities from the perspective of the traveller. There’s a sense of wonderment on display, of adventure. Bose revels in the eclecticism of each of his destinations and draws a multi-sensory cityscape as his character races naively through their streets in search of friendship and a better understanding of his identity within the context of each of the cities he comes to inhabit.
There’s a fluctuating tempo to the piece. Bose is capable of evoking urban chaos but he does so swiftly, choosing to linger on the encounters with various characters along the way: shopkeepers, taxi drivers, immigrations officers, friends old and new. The conversations between the protagonist and the American immigration officer in particular are played out with a dark humour as the inquisitive traveller encounters ignorant brutality. The eccentricities of these characters are carefully articulated by Bose but at times their context in the tale becomes lost as he struggles to find an authentic conversational pace and delivery through his performance.
The accompanying video projections are used sporadically throughout, providing footage of the various urban landscapes and visual enhancements to flavour certain scenes in the narrative. However they threaten to restrict the imaginative journey that Bose leads us on through Kalagora’s often surreal world. The pink sand that Bose uses to mark the start of his journey through Mumbai provides a much more evocative contextualisation of the space, allowing the vivacious lyricism of Bose’s work to speak for itself.