Floriferocity

The Cat

The Cat

Alice

Alice

Floriferocity – Alice reimagined in an Indian Garden of Live Flowers

Ah yes, I was trying to find my way home. This way or that? Quite alarming, as there were no sign posts anywhere! But there was a cat. And a curious one at that! Altogether outstandingly purple. And he told me that we are all quite mad. Mad, I asked. Am I mad too? Oh yes, he said. You see. It all just depends entirely on where you are standing. And licking, thinking and miaowing. Purring or pondering.

So we went on this journey, me and the Cat. Just the sort of thing Victorians loved to do.  On a train! It was a British one of course! Because, as you may recall, it was the time of the British Raj. And the British had railroads crisscrossing all over the place. But the train the Cat wanted me to get on was quite fascinating. It had no carriages except for live flowers, which, I do confess, I found a trifle disconcerting. As I didn’t wish to crush any of the delicate petals. But when I did settle in, the petals turned out not to be in the least crushed.

Instead, I found myself right in the midst of a redolent, plant collecting journey to bring back the most exotic flora possible to make all our British borders truly quaint! My senses were spinning in a whirl of the drifting, wafting rhythms of the Jazzmin. I was garlanded with festoons of quite contrary Marygolds. And they kept telling me the flexing of the flaxes would tone my face into the depth of Krishna’s skin. How was I to know that sun tans would be all the rage! Had I known, I would have luxuriated, a quite relaxed lotus eater on the Lowtus borne high up on flower stalks.

When the train did judder to a halt, I found we had stopped at Zero Station. Now, I became quite confused. Zero surely is a numeral. But is it also a circle? And around? Nought here nought there? A foreigner, Brahmagupta, first subtracted numbers which turned into nothing before they floated off to China where they remained quite empty in many equations and then travelled to the Middle East, where subtraction and addition became equalised into zero. But no such Providence really, when it comes to the human equation. And another foreigner, Aryabhata said “from place to place each is ten times the preceding” which is all about the decimal point moving here and there. Just like I seem to be doing between displace and that place.

But it did help move me onwards and we next arrived at Chatranj, the ancient Indian embodiment of chess, with its squares of chess boards, and all things strategic. Chaturanga! With its armies of horses, elephants, chariots, and soldiers. And it turns that there is an exceedingly nasty battle going on at Plassey. This is horrifically un-British. What is happening is that the British East India Company is vanquishing the Nawab of Bengal and Queen Victoria will one day become Empress of India! And she does so with commands of “Off with his head!” How shocking that our dear, lovely Queen can bring herself to do such a thing! But I am reliably informed that it’s all in the spirit of hearts and tarts. So it can’t all be of such appallingly poor taste! Can it?

But let’s escape from this dire situation. Far nicer to venture into the fates and dates in the realm of stars. It is all so glittery and just like Bollywood here. It is all auspicious but also quite suspicious, as I do not consider it very wise for us to depend on the state of the skies! Not least when it rains and rains, for I am certain it was not only my tears that has caused this disastrously large river to appear suddenly at my feet?

But talking about Empresses and Nawabs, royalty and maharajas go hand in hand keeping good old imperial traditions alive. Just as in total opposite, Tagore and Gandhi go peace by peace trying to change things. Still. Exciting as it may be, nothing long lasting seems to come out of any rebellion. Everything always seem to revert to the norm. The three Cs still stubbornly remain. Corruption, class and caste. Do we think we can reduce inequality to the state of zero? Or should we rely on the goodwill of the gods and the stars? Or are we all mad here?

Now, where was I? Ah yes, I was trying to find my way home. This way or that? Quite alarming, as there are no sign posts anywhere! But there was a cat. And a curious one at that!

The Garden of Live Flowers

curiousercuriousercuriousercuriousercuriousercuriousercuriousercuriousercuriousercuriousercuriousercuriousercuriousercuriousercuriousercuriousercurious

yes…I was…yes…trying to find my way…home…this way?…ouch…I’m all confused…how curious this all is…how curious…

curiousercuriousercuriousercuriousercuriousercuriousercuriousercuriousercuriousercuriousercuriousercuriousercuriousercuriousercuriousercuriousercurious

Bemused

Hello? Ah!

Excuse me. Anyone?

My name is Alice.

Nice to meet you.

Nice to meet you.

Nice to meet you.

How very strange…

How very strange…

How very strange…

How very strange…

I think I’ve created some kind of river.

A river.

A river.

A river.

A river.

A river.

A river.

A river.

A river.

hum rhyming, crazy, times, brain, confused…

the queen is befuddled and I’m in the muddle…hehehe…

and tears make a puddle…

A river.

A river.

A river.

A river.

I remember when I was only tiny and small like 

…or touch the table…aaaahhhhh…mmmmm…

Very nice to meet you.

Very nice to meet you.

Very nice to meet you.

Very nice

which way…hello?

which way…hello?

which way…

yes, how curious this all is…

very very very strange indeed

yes, how curious this all is…

Find a gallery of images from our tour here.

 

Praise for Floriferocity

‘The biggest talking points were the Circus, Floriferocity – an Indian performing flower troupe who were helped by Alice in Wonderland’

Echo Newspapers, Essex.

“Fantastic performance at both Village Green and Village Beach. Everybody was talking about how amazing the show was.”

Jonathan Curzon, Chair, Essex Cultural Diversity Project

Scenario of Live Production

The live production of Floriferocity draws from the inspiration of the Alice books and the chapter of ‘The Garden of Live Flowers’. Alice finds herself in India as a ‘tourist’. There she meets the Cheshire Cat character who is her ‘host’. When she enters a garden of Indian flowers, the Cat conjures them to life and takes her on a journey in a train made out of flowers.

Alice goes on a trail of the following stations that threads together the many different elements behind the live production. The train and railway network was brought to India by the British. The singing Lotus is the spiritual guide.

She is welcomed by the flowers with a miniature Marigold character as Marigold are always used in welcoming garlands for visitors in India.

Zero Station – The full grasp of zero’s importance did not arrive until seventh century A.D. in India. Mathematician Brahmagupta and others used small dots under numbers to show a zero placeholder. They also perceived zero as having a null value, called “sunya”. Brahmagupta was the first to show that subtracting a number from itself results in zero. 

Chatranj Station – It is believed that chess originated in India as a development of the Chatranj game that used maharajahs, advisers (in place of the Queen) horses, elephants and foot soldiers. We used this scene to bring in Gandhi’s and Tagore’s pacifist resistance to British rule in India and Indian rebels who fought against the British.

Astrology Station – This showed the importance of the planets in confirming auspicious days for ceremonies and weddings. Here the Jasmine and Marigold are used during such ceremonies.

Krishna Station – This reflects the spirituality of India through Hinduism and the very human qualities of Krishna as a child and god. This links with the Lotus as a symbol of Hindu gods and spirituality, and the blue Flax, whose colour is compared to Krishna’s blue complexion.

Flowers Featured in Floriferocity

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Lotus

Lotus

The Lotus represents spiritual aspects of Hinduism and Buddhism. The majestic flowers growing out of muddy waters symbolise purity in Buddhism. The flower is also associated with Lord Brahma who was created seated on a lotus arising from the navel of Lord Vishnu. Devi, the Mother Goddess is called ‘Mother Lotus’ and she lives in a thousand petalled Lotus. The goddess Lalshmi sits on a red lotus and Saraswati sits on a white one. Many decorative patterns are inspired by lotus flowers and petals. References to the lotus abound like eyes shaped like lotus petals or a face as beautiful as a blooming lotus, or the sun as the friend of the lotus, which opens during the day and shuts at night.

 

Jasmine

Jasmine

Jasmine

In India, the Jasmine is known as the “King of Flowers”, “ Moonlight of the Grove” and “Queen of the Night”. It is a symbol of love and temptation.  In mythology, Kama, the god of love and lust, attached jasmine flowers to his arrows to pierce the heart through the senses to make his victims fall in love. The Jasmine is an essential flower in marriage ceremonies both for it’s purity and fragrance. As white as jasmine and teeth as white as jasmine buds are similes often used in India.

Flax

Flax

Flax

In Sanskrit literature, the colour the flax is compared to the blue complexion of Krishna. It is popularly used in worship of Goddess Durga who is sometimes considered an incarnation of Krishna. It is a plant of many practical uses.

Marigold

Marigold

Marigold

In Hinduism , the Marigold symbolizes is an auspicious flower. The saffron colour signifies renunciation and is offered to the gods as a symbol of surrender, trust in the divine and is believed it will overcome obstacles and the victory of good over evil. As such, it is often found in welcoming and ceremonial garlands which are placed around the neck.

Victorian plant collectors

Let’s take a walk around a traditional British garden. You see those lilies over there – Lilium regale, with their white trumpets flushed with purple on the outside and a fragrance that hangs in the warm summer air? They were introduced to the UK by Ernest “Chinese” Wilson in 1910. He found them growing in the Min Valley in south-west China and as he was collecting them, he was caught in a landslide and broke his leg in two places. The injury left him with a limp for the rest of his life.

Look, there’s the humble flowering currant, Ribes sanguineum, whose rosy-red racemes mark the beginning of spring. This was introduced by David Douglas, as were lupins, California poppies and many of the conifers that are now staples of our arboretums and suburban gardens.

Douglas paid for his discoveries with his life: he was killed in Hawaii at the age of 35 in a pit dug to trap wild bullocks.

Rhododendrons? The greatest collector of all was arguably George Forrest, who died of a heart attack in Yunnan in 1932 after a career that included fighting off xenophobic Tibetan “lamas” and succumbing to malaria. In 1924, Forrest also discovered Camellia saluenensis, which formed the basis of the hardy Williams hybrid camellias, which we grow in gardens all over the UK.

Let’s not forget the smaller plants, such as the delicate pink Geranium farreri, discovered by Reginald Farrer in the Minshan mountains of upper Burma in 1914. Six years later, Farrer died there, aged 40, supposedly of diphtheria (though some said it was alcohol poisoning).’

So where do you begin, if you want to explore the story of plant hunting? Ever since the Romans brought us plums, walnuts, roses and parsley (among other things), the British have been foraging in all corners of the globe for plants that can be put to use back home. The early American explorers brought back potatoes and tomatoes, and by the 1630s, more than 100 North American species of tree were being grown in England.

The purpose of Captain Bligh’s ill-fated voyage aboard HMS Bounty in 1787 was to pick up breadfruit plants from Tahiti and take them to the West Indies, where it was hoped they could be grown as food. Robert Fortune, the Scottish botanist (it’s astonishing how many of the 19th-century plant hunters were Scottish), introduced tea from politically volatile China to British-controlled Assam in 1848.’

What motivated the plant hunters was not personal gain – very few became rich – or even fame. Their names, commemorated in the plants they bequeathed to us, are only really familiar to keen gardeners. Their driving force was a passion for their subject.

Extracts from The Independent – Victoria Summerley, 12 July 2012

Team

Alice – Sarah Winn

Cat – Dhurv Singh

Lotus – Pawan Singh

Jasmine – Monu

Flax – Guddu

Marigold – Munga Ram Rana

Musician – Sardar Rana

Vocals – Sarah Winn, Pawan Singh

Text – Sarah Winn, Hi Ching

Music – Hi Ching

Camera – Cid Shaha

Videos – Hi Ching

Floriferocity marks FIPA’s new development of creating a style of Indo-Anglo circus theatre – a multidisciplinary style of performance involving folk performers of Rajasthan. In January 2015 FIPA began an R&D period with circus artists, actors, singers, dancers and musicians in Jaipur. This developed into two productions – Floriferocity and The Potion – both of which toured the UK in the summer of 2015 to high acclaim. FIPA Centre in Amer, (Jaipur/Rajasthan) was subsequently set up in November 2015 to establish a base for the creation of new, exciting and innovative productions with Indian and British artists. FIPA Centre will also hold workshops and cultural exchanges between India, the UK and other countries.

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