‘The Ulster Kama Sutra’ – Terra Nova Theatre Company
‘The Ulster Kama Sutra’ is a puppet cabaret conceived from interviews conducted by Terra Nova Theatre Company across Northern Ireland and loosely based on the ‘Kama Sutra’ text. The play presents beliefs, perceptions and stereotypes of both Hindu and Northern Irish sexuality and relationships.
The main storyline is initiated by the Hindu god Krishna, represented by a blue head. He wants to explore Ulster to learn about the residents’ sexuality and further enlighten the Hindu understandings of sexuality. His motivations are much the same as the people of Ulster, who are reading the ‘Kama Sutra’ in order to educate themselves on balanced and happy sexual relationships. Throughout the play we see the characters become confused with and disgusted by each other.
‘The Ulster Kama Sutra’ is hilarious in its representation of the contrasting Catholic and Hindu interpretations of a healthy sex life. But the exoticism of the ‘other’ type of sex is present in both communities. There are hand puppets representing various body parts including the vagina of an old woman, the vagina of an African woman and the penis of a middle aged farmer, which all deliver monologues describing ‘What Ulster Actually Said.’
The puppet genitalia personify the body part but are never more than a puppet. This creates a distance from the personal nature of the speeches. The words can be embarrassing, for example when the old vagina tells us how “granny still thinks about it and granny still wants it.”
The puppetry is at times weaker than the acting. The puppeteers wear caps, which hide their eyes and interrupt their focus. They don’t help draw our attention towards the puppet as they should. When the puppeteers are working without the caps the focus is much clearer. The accents of the actors are not perfect but they aren’t meant to be. They make the stereotypes into jokes, unfixing their stability.
The play provides a juvenile, comical representation of sexuality through the use of hilarious hand puppets. Much like the accents, the puppets present us with the stereotypes of people and generations, and make them laughable. In making us laugh at these stereotypes, they make them trivial and carry less weight. By the end of the play, the actors and the puppets appear as separate entities singing their closing song together as a group, representing the potential harmony to be found in understanding each other.
‘The Ulster Kama Sutra’
Terra Nova Theatre Company
The Grand Opera House, Belfast