Tales of Birbal – National Tour October/November 2017 dates

After the success at The Spark and with The Core, Corby, Mashi are re-touring Tales of Birbal to theatres and schools across the country in 2017.

The first half of the tour has been a huge success! Thanks to our audiences in Peterborough, Nottingham, Spalding, Louth, Derby, Birmingham, Melton, Oakham, Leicester, London and Cambridge! Make sure you’re following @MashiTheatre on Twitter and on Facebook to see some of their great responses!

Dates still to come:

Performances below are part of the Big Imaginations Festival:

Wednesday 25 October, 2.00pm: Touchstones, Rochdale. Book tickets

Thursday 26 October, 10.00am and 1.00pm: Burnley Youth Theatre. Book tickets

Friday 27 October, 2.30pm: Unity Theatre, Liverpool. Book tickets

Saturday 28 October, 3.00pm: Spot On, Lancashire: Kingsfold Library, Penwortham. Book in person at the library or by email.

Monday 30 October, 11.30am and 2.00pm: The Astley Cheetham Gallery, Stalybridge. Book tickets – 11.30 2.00

Tuesday 31 October, 11.00am and 2.00pm: Theatre Delicatessen, Sheffield. Book tickets


Wednesday 1 November, 11.00am and 1.30pm: The Dukes, Lancaster.  Book tickets

Thursday 2 November, 2.00pm: The Bureau, Blackburn. Book tickets

Friday 3 November, 6.00pm: CRTA: Tarvin Community Centre, Cheshire. Book tickets

Saturday 4 November, 11.00am and 2.30pm : Z-arts, Manchester. Book tickets

Sunday 5 November, 3.00pm: The Boo, Rossendale. Book tickets


Are you a venue or producer interested in booking the show? Get in touch to find out more!

Casting call: Mashi Theatre’s Tales of Birbal

Mashi Theatre is touring it’s production Tales of Birbal nationally in May/June 2017. We are seeking two female performers to cast for the production. The audition will be held on Tuesday 14th March. Deadline to register an interest to audition is Friday 10th March 10am. (details below).

– We seek two female performers to play the main characters, Mashi and Bhanji
– Both performers need to be of South Asian origin.
– The Mashi character is in her 30s and the Bhanji character is 12. However, performers with older playing ages will be considered and we will cast to ensure the actors compliment each other with respect their age.
– Both actors will need to manipulate basic puppets. Previous puppetry experience is desirable, but not essential, as a puppetry director will guide this process.
– Basic knowledge of a South Asian language would be an advantage

Engagement details
– Rehearsals (Leicester) from: Thursday 27th April (3 weeks)
– Touring (across England, details below) from: Thursday 18th May (5 weeks)
– Fees are in line with those recommended by ITC
– We also intend to tour the show in October 2017. Should this go ahead it will be offered and contracted as a separate engagement

Audition details
– Tuesday 14th March
– Unicorn Theatre, 147 Tooley Street, London SE1 2HZ
– The audition will be in the style of a facilitated workshop, which will take place all day. The exact time will be agreed with shortlisted applicants.
– Those called to audition will be asked to prepare a children’s story – from a culture different to their own – of no more than 2 minutes
– There will be work on the day which requires sight-reading, please indicate if you have any requirements in this regard.

About Tales of Birbal
Mashi Theatre, in association with The Spark Arts for Children and supported by Z-arts, presents
Tales of Birbal
by Sayan Kent
from an original concept by Trina Haldar

The ‘Tales of Birbal’ stories have been treasured for centuries by generations across the Indian sub-continent. Mashi Theatre’s production invites a new generation to unearth the richness in these legends.

Birbal was a poet and author, but was more widely esteemed for his wit and wisdom in solving problems. Known as one of the Navaratnas or nine jewels of the Mogul Emperor Akbar, many would travel from far and wide to present Birbal with a challenge, to which he would always have an intelligent and amusing response. No one enjoyed this clever banter more than the Emperor himself, who often wore a disguise in order to test the loyalty of his subjects.

Akin to Aesop’s fables, the stories are reawakened for a new audience of families and children age 6+ years. Tales of Birbal is a colourful, inventive, humorous piece, featuring music and puppetry. It will appeal to families, but will be equally attractive to schools as a unique cultural learning resource.

Further information on the characters
Mashi and Bhanji, who are poor and live from hand to mouth on their journey. Mashi and Bhanji take it in turns to play Akbar, Birbal and all the other characters.

Mashi: A woman in her 30s. She has been homeless for many years but manages to survive by her storytelling and the kindness of strangers. On her travels she met Bhanji, who followed her. She has grown very fond of Bhanji, who is the child Mashi may never have, though would never let on in case Bhanji took advantage of her emotions.

Bhanji: 12 years old, a refugee orphan who adopted Mashi when she came through the town telling stories. She thinks of Mashi as a mother as well as an aunt. She hopes that Mashi loves her, though she sometimes worries when they don’t have enough food that Mashi will leave her behind somewhere. She is a typical 12 year old and gets into some mischief. She also winds Mashi up sometimes. She does a lot of the heavy work for Mashi to earn her keep.

Touring venues:
We are playing for two or more days in the majority of places we are touring to, which include:
– Brighton Festival
– Alchemy Festival, Southbank
– the egg, Theatre Royal Bath
– The Hat Factory, Luton
– JuneFest, Bedford
– The Spark, Leicester
– Warwick Arts Centre
– Watermans Arts Centre

About Mashi Theatre
Mashi Theatre shares stories for the child in all of us. ‘Mashi’ being the keeper of stories, teller of tales, a playmaker and confidante. In the Asian culture a ‘Mashi’ is comparable to the western ‘aunt’, not necessarily a blood relative but someone who assumes the role. Mashi Theatre’s vision is to reawaken stories seeped in culture and hand them down to a new generation.

Website: www.mashi-theatre.co.uk

To apply for either role, please email a headshot and CV to
Thomas Wildish, Producer: thomas@thomaswildish.co.uk
07833 380453

Please indicate which role you are interested in, and also confirm your availability for the audition and the engagement dates. Applicants selected for audition will be contacted shortly after the closing date.

Deadline to submit headshots and CV: Friday 10th March 10am

Puppets, Music and Sharing

Today Becky and Arun were introduced to the group and the children applauded Arun’s clarinet playing however considering how few children played musical instruments in the group it was fantastic to hear the atmospheric music they created as a group (with Arun as conductor, of course!) Some even played music later on in the day with their group’s specific scenes in mind, from eerie, to magic to cricket, they played the full range.

DSC03840 DSC03820 DSC03852 DSC03810 DSC03730 DSC03690 DSC04020 DSC04002

Like Robert Mellors, the Courtier puppets had the chance to bow to a real king…puppet and the processed and bowed with grace after sues puppetry workshop.

We finished the day with a song that is familiar to the facilitators as it is infections, an ear worm if you like, we created a new verse with questions from the children, including is there life on mars? Birbal knows Birbal Knows, why does rain fall from the sky? Birbal knows Birbal knows etc.

Mayflower and Mashi Sharing 


We started with a vocal warm up with Becky the groups jumped straight into singing the Akbar and Birbal song and also learnt a new verse. They even added some actions!

In their groups they had continued to devise and extend their scenes, constantly challenging what was possible in the few short hours until the sharing.

Later on huzaifah and zaydan had created and rehearsed some musical accompaniment to their groups scene with they were so happy that they said Arun was EPIC!

The children performed and the younger year groups laughed, voted an appropriate punishment (I think prison won!) and some even sang along to the Akbar and Birbal song.

Whilst capturing some of the children’s thoughts on the three days with Mashi Theatre the word EPIC! was used again.


Mayflower Primary School Day 1

The school were attentive and laughed whilst watching Akbar and Birbal introduction. The children said they weren’t aware of the stories however when we told a few more a couple of them jumped in with the ‘punch line’ of the tales and on reflection said they had heard the tales in India when they had been on holiday. They were very responsive when it came to exploring Akbar and Birbal through hot seating and also took on the role of Birbal and Akbar.DSC03627DSC03618DSC03559

When it came to creating freeze frames for sections of the stories the groups flew with it, as I was working with the Crows group they flew quite literally from one still image to the next, they worked together and directed each other.

All the groups shared their still images back and then we moved onto developing them.

This was very exciting as we saw the groups potential, again, working mostly with the crows I had the easy task of helping them to shape their ideas to extend the still images into scene, we began to work with soundscapes and movement, and even gave plant pots a voice!

Friday Sharing Birbal and Akbar Stories

It was just beautiful to see how the children took on the challenge of creating their own Akbar and Birbal story. From a rough outline the previous day to stories which were shared and told by their groups, each participant telling their part and committing to physical/visual clues to help the rather large audience consisting of two classes, teachers and school governors follow the stories:DSC03464

They shared their puppetry as they processed into the room, played music live DSC03379

and sang a song written using their questions from Akbar to Birbal



some more feedback from this first part of the project to follow but here is a taster:

‘Smiley faces say it all’ Head Teacher Sue Laplanche (who supported Mashi Theatre and made our stay at Robet Mellors Primary more than enjoyable)


Day 2 Mashi Theatre with Live music at Robert Mellors Primary School

Today was full of music, stories and puppets. As it should be! Arun met the group for the first time today and the children responded to the first few improvised tunes on the clarinet with great enthusiasm. It wasn’t long before Arun had them playing their own music, using voices, drums, xylophones, keyboard etc as he orchestrated them through different moods and themes, including the Jungle at night.


We found out even more about the Birbal stories, through some brief history and old comic strip books in which the children thought Birbal looked ‘evil’ because he had a moustache! They listened to more stories then created their own. They invented a Twin for Birbal, a thief, disguising himself as family and a Brahman out in icy waters, staying hopeful by watching the light from the palace.

The final section of the afternoon was the puppet parade as the bowed to an emperor, a clever puppet manipulated by Sue that captured and owned the space to make it a real royal occasion. and moved to some music created by Arun.

We concluded the day with a song full of questions that Akbar could have asked Birbal and had a very catchy chorus!

Akbar and Birbal…237

Day 1: Mashi Theatre Meets Robert Mellors Primary School

Today Mashi Theatre enchanted and amused Robert Mellors Primary School with a short introduction to Akbar and Birbal. This wasn’t a fully rehearsed piece, script in hand, a couple of scarves to signify character, however the children were so taken in by the characters that when it came to finding out what they knew/thought about them and the story they couldn’t stop talking, even the usually quiet ones.

We found out even more about Birbal and Akbar as the children asked them questions e. g

Akbar what do you do when people make you sad?

If they have done something wrong, and that is often why people make me sad, I punish them. In many ways it amuses me.

By the time it came to creating their own work from shorter stories, they were up on their feet and although some were tentative, they all shared three still images.

The games really helped to build their confidence and focus, exploring the servant and king relationship and also more focussed concentrated exercises saw them becoming somewhat of an ensemble, quite magical for primary school year 5’s.

Each group approached extending the tableaus into scenes differently, from the beginnings of movement ideas to text. As they developed their scenes modern references began to creep in; mobile phones and theft of wallets, which supports the relevance of the themes in these ancient stories in today’s context.

A highlight of the day was making the Ragisthani puppets (Kathputli puppets). Each child made a puppet and took it on a parade through the space, moving to music that evoked a real sense of occasion.


Planning Day

Planning for research and development is exciting as there isn’t one definite direction or question. We have a chance to explore and play with ideas as the children might do in order to plan something to inspire them and ignite their curiosity about the Birbal stories.


We were inspired by games, questions, music and a cheeky puppet.

Here are some thoughts and questions and an example of a game we played;

What kind of person is Birbal?

  • Witty, fool, prankster, commedia, briar rabbit, merlin
  • Sure of himsel
  • Has confidence in his ability to change things for the good
  • A father


Does Birbal ever get frustrated with the relationship between him and Akbar?

  • He doesn’t have anything to lose
  • Everyone listens to him
  • Perhaps gets frustrated with the other courtiers

Why does Birbal stay with Akbar?

  • In some ways he is in control;
  • wit
  • intelligence
  • Akbar is illiterate so Birbal is needed

Is Akbar a good King?

  • He seeks council


What does Birbal get out of it?

  • Money
  • Celebrity
  • Power
  • Control


  • Based on real characters
  • Akbar:
  • Mogal/Mughal King (a member of the Muslim dynasty that ruled until 1857)
  • 14 years older than Birbal
  • Illiterate
  • Brotherly relationship with Birbal
  • No one else would challenge the king except Birbal


  • Hindu
  • Wise? (or just listened to?)
  • People go to him
  • Celebrity/well known
  • Prankster- helps people to see their error of their ways through humour
  • Jealous courtiers
  • Akbars favourite
  • Had a son, daughter and wife
  • From a poor background