An integral part of Tibetan’s history rests on its unquestionable devotion to Buddhism, a religion originating from North India between the 7th and 13th century CE. Another facet of Tibet’s history is its ongoing resistance against China. Currently ruled by the People’s Republic of China, significant leaders such as the Dalai Lama now find themselves expelled from their country of origin. Governed by communist rule, Tibetans face a situation whereby members of their own government currently reside in Daramsala, North India, a nation who have willingly accepted the arrival of a Tibetan refugees after the Lhasa Uprising against the People’s Republic of China in 1959.
Having visited Daramsala prior to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, ‘Tibetans were very optimistic that it would be a good time to publicise their cause but sadly many demonstrations were squashed and nothing changed’. These were observations made by writer of Lhasa, Bettina Garcias. Religion being integral to Tibetan culture, Garcias taught monks English, these monks having been made to flee their country of origin due to being tortured and imprisoned by the PRC. A conflict that we here in the West would have either heard little or nothing about, Garcias presents a case study zooming in on the unrelenting patriotism of a Tibetan national.
Ama, an inn keeper residing in Lhasa is a devoted follower of Buddhism, and without doubt respects the traditions of old. Her resentment for the now ruling People’s Republic of China is unquestionable. Independently, she powers through the everyday, every now and then, a Chinese passer by requesting to spend the night at her premises. A seemingly peaceful owner, Ama reveals the lengths she’ll go to to defend her country’s heritage. Garcias expertly carves out a well rounded portrait of Ama (Sarah Lam), a sharp tongued yet devoted woman. Ama suffers no prisoners, she’s a force of nature with a might that could rival the enemy’s resistance. With Ama, the audience are left conflicted. Her actions in terms of protecting her homeland are questionable, simultaneously she is the evening’s crux, pushing the evening along. Her relationship with her son is cold. A constant clash between generational ideals a factor that further drives a wedge between the two.
Garcias brilliantly observes Karma’s (Alex Chang) openminded-ness and Ama’s old school thinking. Miniature conflicts play out during the evening, this establishing the play’s complexity. A visiting monk (David Tse) debunks the myth that all religious followers and leaders act saintly continually, his love for football humanising him and contributing a light hearted energy appreciated by the audience. In drawing up on the small lives of these individuals, Garcias reveals a wider issue of cultural tensions. There is a sinister feeling throughout that lives are being lost and the population living under an oppressed regime, the story of Ama an intriguing one to watch. Lhasa will have you inspired to read up on the history of Tibet and it’s currrent political struggle – To see this production up on its feet is crucial.
Written by Lucy Basaba.
Lhasa is showing on both Monday 14th and Friday 18th May 2018 at the Tristan Bates Theatre as part of the Kali Theatre War Play season. To find out more about the works in progress, visit here…