Henna is a delicious mix of traditional Indian storytelling sprinkled with an insight into modern 21st century Punjabi weddings. Peter and Gorg Chand (uncle and nephew), are our guides for the evening, and they sit resplendent in their embroidered salwar kameez. They are taking the audience to a wedding.
The evening starts and ends with news of the matchmaker’s wife, the ‘bacholi’ . Still a fixture in modern day Britain, this matriarchal figure gathers the bride and other ladies together as they prepare to have their hands covered in henna. And so the stories begin. We hear miraculous tales that have been passed down through generations of Punjabi families. Think Grimms fair tales with a sub-continental flavour. The Chands take it in turns to recount the fables which contain all the magic ingredients of humour, tragedy, love and betrayal. The stories range from that of a bewitchingly beautiful young girl with supernatural powers, to a king saved by the power of henna.
Both storytellers are highly accomplished; using hand gestures, changes in pace and tone and even beautiful soft singing in Punjabi, to draw the audience in. The tales aren’t too long, but are still absorbing. Peter and Gorg have soothing, melodic voices and a good delivery pace. They create an atmosphere that is very relaxing, almost soporific.
The wedding progresses and provides the opportunity to learn of the different stages in a Sikh wedding. However its soon party time – Punjabis like to party! and the audience is on its feet trying a few Bollywood steps. All too soon, the wedding is over and the spell is broken.
Peter is a full time storyteller – one of only a handful operating full time in the UK today, and is obviously well practiced in entertaining an audience. Gorg is equally talented and the partnership works well. A truly fascinating evening and an insight into another culture.