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About Us

Who We Are

The Kala Chethena Kathakali Company is the leading Kathakali group outside of India. Our vision is to make Kathakali accessible, understandable and enjoyable to people of all ages, abilities and cultural backgrounds throughout the UK and internationally.

 

 

How it all began

The Kala Chethena Kathakali Company was founded in 1987 by Kathakali make-up specialist, Kalamandalam Barbara Vijayakumar and Kathakali actor, Kalamandalam Vijayakumar to bring the remarkable art and culture of Kathakali to the UK. Since then we have toured all over the UK enabling thousands of people to experience the powerful storytelling of Kathakali.

Vijayakumar

Our Mission

Our mission is to deliver outstanding Asian theatre and culture through workshops and performances by eminent artists from India, to encourage equality, understanding and respect through a common enjoyment of the arts.

The Kala Chethena Kathakali Company

We aim to provide exciting and imaginative work to encourage maximum participation in the arts. The Kala Chethena Kathakali Company provides a variety of workshops, an educational/community programme, training, exhibitions of our costumes plus national and international touring.


 

Tribute to Kalamandalam Barbara Vijayakumar:

“My life has been significantly enriched by Barbara’s passion, single-mindedness and organisational brilliance as much as by her compassion, immense creativity and kindness.

Barbara’s skills are as diverse as they are impressive, she is an adventurer, mother, wife, tour manager, business manager, friend, guide, teacher, writer, public speaker and artist.

If you ever get a chance to meet Barbara, do let her tell you her story, how she found herself in Kerala in the 1970’s to study as the first female Kathakali make-up artist in the world at the renowned Kerala Kalamandalam, after getting off a train at the wrong stop by accident and finding the top training centre for Kathakali in the small village of Cheruthuruthy, how she created her own outstanding theatre company Centre Ocean Stream, and traversed the country in the heyday of the 1980’s.

Ask her about the determination, energy and skill it has taken to design all the schools projects and workshops responding to the curriculum changes in order to keep Kathakali relevant and accessible for thousands of young people.

Ask her about the logistical complexity of arranging 25 Kathakali national tours for major international Kathakali artists from Kerala, each lasting up to three months, 3,500 workshops, 3,000 solo performances and 23 exhibitions of Kathakali costumes. In addition fund raising, visas, tickets, accommodation, food, transport as well as being the creative director and principal chutti artist, capable of applying the chutti for the most famous Kathakali actors to include the legend, Padmasree Kalamandalam Gopi.

Ask her about the depth of devotion she feels for her ashan, the greatest costume and chutti specialist ever to live, the unforgettable Kalamandalam Govinda Variyar.

Ask her and you will be inspired, as I have been, to follow your dreams and realise that anything is possible with commitment and determination”.

Simon Misso-Veness - Arts Educator & Theatre Specialist North London Collegiate School, Jeju, South Korea

Barbara

 


 

THE KALA CHETHENA KATHAKALI TROUPE BOARD;

The Kala Chethena Kathakali Troupe is governed by an elected Board who are committed to developing access, understanding and enjoyment of Kathakali for all ages, backgrounds, abilities, gender and location.

 

MEET THE BOARD:

NIGEL GANN, Chair

Nigel Gann’s career in drama, education and community development led him to Kathakali in 1987. He was a founder member of the Kala Chethena Kathakali Troupe Board and has been chair for 20 years.

Nigel believes it is essential to preserve, protect and share Kathakali’s unique blend of ritual, narrative and spectacle rooted in the Keralan community.

 


 

CATHY WOOD, Director

Cathy Wood has had a long career in public service in the probation, youth & community, education & adult social care sectors.

It was while she was teaching in a community secondary school that she first encountered Kathakali. Students had been invited to a live performance of the art form which captivated & challenged their senses, perceptions & cultural norms. The impact of the sounds & sights of this stunning spectacle were profound & long-lasting.

Cathy has been privileged, over the years, to be able to support & promote the important cultural & artistic mission of the Kala Chethena Charity.’

 


 

JILL CRUMP, Director

Is experienced with problem solving and working with the local community.

 


 

WENDY COOKE, Secretary

 

Wendy is experienced in accounting, managing budgets and interested in supporting the arts.

Enjoys travelling, especially to Turkey, and exploring other cultures.