It's as dramatic as opera, as theatrical as kabuki and it's never been seen before in the West. Jatra is the village theatre of Bangladesh and seeing it for the first time is like seeing magic summoned up before your very eyes.

The London Festival of Bangladesh at Spitalfields Market tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday is a celebration of all aspects of Bangladeshi culture. Music, dance, painting, crafts, magicians, plays by young Bengali playwrights, henna hand painting, photography, a fashion show and - of course - food. Much of this will seem quite familiar as so much of what is Bangladeshi is already known as 'Indian'.

Jatra is a perfect summary of Bangladeshi culture and will be performed as much as possible the way it is in Bangladesh. The style of Bengali cinema is based on jatra, and while it seems a bit over the top on screen - just as other musical films do - on stage it is fascinatingly theatrical. The musical accompaniment tells the mood of the scene and the acting is so much larger than life you understand the action even if you don't understand the words, just like opera. The company that is performing here is considered the best in Bangladesh.

Situations and characters are archetypal and influenced by Shakespeare. Two plays are being performed. Sirejuddouna is a tragic history of the last nawab, defeated by the British East India Company in 1757, the first step in the conquest of India. The king is betrayed by his aunt, who wants to see her son in his place. The defeated nawab is sent into exile and must leave the throne of his ancestors. Roopban is a fairytale/folktale of a king's son who is unaware of his identity, living in exile, married from the age of 12 days and raised by his wife who he believes is his mother. Sounds familiar, but there may be a twist in the tale.

'Sirejuddouna' 4pm, 'Roopban' 8pm, 1-3 July, Spitalfields Market, Commercial St, E1 (071-247 2558) pounds 10

(Photograph omitted)

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