Handlooms a new Rasa Theatre and Contact co-production.

UK’s oldest traditional sari shops are setting for HANDLOOMS

A Rasa Theatre and Contact co-production.

Supported by Curve and Slung Low


Written by Rani Moorthy; Directed by Alan Lane

12- 24 March: Alankar House of Sarees, Manchester; 10-22 April: Anokhi House Of Sarees, Leicester.

Press performance: Wednesday 14th March 7.30pm. 

Set to unfold within one of the Leicester’s longest-running traditional sari shops, Rasa Theatre and Contact present HANDLOOMS, written by Rani Moorthy and directed by Alan Lane (Slung Low). Exploring the sari from a rarely-taken male perspective, this immersive performance will be performed inside working businesses Anokhi House of Sarees in Leicester to give audiences a close encounter with a world that is slowly dying out.

Set in a fictional sari shop HANDLOOMS, the play follows a mother and son in generational conflict as they seek opposing solutions to a crisis in their sari business. Experienced as a mixture of live performance and audio storytelling through headphones, the play gives a fascinating insight into the rich traditions of the sari – from the male-dominated world of bartering, buying, designing and draping the everyday garment onto south Asian women, to the contemporary fashion demands and changes through the generations that are seeing these rich traditions slowly disappearing.

Rani Moorthy explains, “I was very aware growing up that men sold the sari, dictated what we wore, designed the saris. I was also conscious of the language used when encountering female clients; sensuous, intimate, about the women’s body, the drape – the gestures – so contrary to the strict social rules we had between genders in the south Asian community. It took me a long time to understand this was something so unique – and that it was dying out.

When on the Curry Mile or at Diwali celebrations in Leicester I would see women wearing everyday saris, worn to go shopping or to do chores or go to the post office. But this was slowly eroding; the sari was going back into the closet. The sari shops were slowly becoming something else; shisha bars or Westernised new boutique-style salons, not the traditional style shops I knew when I was growing up. 

I wanted to write a play about saris from the male perspective, and Handlooms happens in a real sari shop to give the audience a very close encounter; to recreate my childhood memories of these extraordinary men whose love of saris took them to a very theatrical way of presenting themselves.

Alankar House of Sarees where Handlooms will be initially performed and Anokhi House of Sarees are owned by one family through three generations. Coming to the UK from Tanzania in the late 1960s, Anokhi House of Sarees was initially established in Leicester and then Alankar House of Sarees; becoming the first sari shop on the Curry Mile when it opened 40 years ago. From its origins as a business run by men trading everyday custom-made weaves sourced from the handlooms to today’s contemporary demands for ready-stitched fashion and boutique wedding saris, they are experiencing vast changes to the business of who buys and sells the sari, offering fascinating insight into a changing migrant experience.

Real life and drama co-exist in the authentic theatrical setting of these traditional shops, as HANDLOOMS takes a rare male-perspective on the sari to explore- and explode – assumptions about this traditional garment. It is the second show in Rasa’s sari trilogy.

Tickets are on sale now for HANDLOOMS at Leicester’s Anokhi House of Sarees, performances are £10, £10 concessions and on sale through Curve Leicester. Book via 0116 242 3595 or curveonline.co.uk


Alankar, 46-48 Wilmslow Road, Manchester M14 5TQ.

Performance dates (Mon-Fri): 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 March: 7.30pm and 9.15pm.

Sat 17 (BSL and post show discussion), and Sat 24th March: 8.30pm.

Tickets: £15/£11 concs.

Anokhi, 99-101 Belgrave Road, Leicester, LE4 6AS. Tue- Sun: 7.30pm and 9.15pm. £15, £10 concs.

Rani Moorthy is artistic director of Rasa. She has written for BBC 1 Doctors, BBC Radio 4 dramas and several short films, including Incense, funded by the Film Council, which premiered at Cannes Film Festival and televised on ITV. Her play Curry Tales was nominated for a MEN best Fringe production, had two national tours, toured internationally to 4 continents and broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and Too Close to Home was nominated as MEN best New Play award. States of Verbal Undress was a finalist in the live event category of Asian Media Awards. Her play Handful of Henna was translated into Italian and she has been commissioned to write a short play for the Milan Expo 2015.

She recently performed in Flood, Slung Low’s ground-breaking epic adventure for Hull UK City of Culture 2017 and previously worked with Alan Lane on her 2012 production Finding Kool, a site-specific show made for the underground spaces of the Royal Festival Hall.

Her performances include: Stage: Whose Sari Now? (national tour), East is East (Trafalgar Studios), Rafta Rafta (Bolton Octagon, New Vic), Curry Tales (Traverse, Lyric Hammersmith, national and international tours), Too Close to Home (Library Theatre, Lyric Hammersmith),Romeo and Juliet (Birmingham Rep). Television: Prey (ITV 1), Mrs Bilal in the BBC sitcom Citizen Khan. Prisoners Wives, Emmerdale, Coronation Street, Moving On and Cold Feet. Film: All in Good time and Twenty8K.

Rasa Theatre

Rasa means taste in Malay, the 9 emotions in Sanskrit theatre and essence of life in Tamil, all part of founder Rani Moorthy’s cultural heritage. The Manchester-based theatre company is renowned for its high quality, critically acclaimed work that aims to artistically celebrate the migrant experience. Rasa has toured extensively in the UK and taken work to Malaysia, Sri Lanka, USA, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Mauritius and Singapore

Alan Lane is Artistic Director of Slung Low directing most of their work over the last decade including work at the Barbican, the RSC, The Almeida, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Liverpool Everyman, Sheffield Theatres Singapore Arts Festival and the Lowry.

He has directed in places as wide ranging as the National Theatre of Croatia, Buckingham Palace and in a village in Purulia, Southern India. He was the Artistic Director for the National Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme on 1st July 2016.

Slung Low create adventures for audiences locally, nationally and internationally.

We create work that happens outside of conventional theatre spaces. Often with huge community casts. In 2017 Slung Low headlined Hull UK City of Culture 2017 with Flood by James Phillips: a 4 Part epic performed online, live and on the BBC. Over half a million people saw a part of Flood.

We make work on trains, castles, swimming pools and town centres. We created our first children’s show in the foyers of the Barbican centre in London and took over an old school building in Singapore as part of the Singapore Arts Festival.

We are based at the HUB, the Holbeck Underground Ballroom, five railway arches in Holbeck in Leeds. A rehearsal and performance space for regional artists. Invited companies from throughout Europe present Pay What You Decide shows on a Sunday afternoon.


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