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Nayika: A Dancing Girl - Belvoir St Theatre (NSW)

Co-created and Co-Directed by Nithya Nagarajan and Liv Satchell

Artful, cinematic and entrancing storytelling takes place on the Belvoir stage through an utterly beautiful piece of theatre that is as compelling as it is timely in the current social climate

Reviewed by Justin Clarke

Upstairs Theatre Belvoir St, Surry Hills

Until 19th May 2024

Authenticity and honesty are woven within the nuanced performance from Vaishnavi Suryaprakash in Belvoir St’s Nayika: A Dancing Girl as we are enveloped into raw and captivating storytelling by co-creators Nithya Nagarajan and Liv Satchell. The house lights fade ever so slowly as musicians Marco Cher-Gibard and Bhairavi Raman create a soundscape silhouetted against hues of amber and orange. It’s the closest to cinematic you can get without screens and perfectly situates the audience to be taken into the story of Nayika; one of survival and resistance.

Suryaprakash leads the story from thnme outset through movement and storytelling that is always direct, precise and purposeful. An overdue catchup with an old highschool friend thrusts Nayika back to Chennai, on the Bay of Bengal, as she lived alone whilst studying and living Bharatanatyam dance.

Nayika: A Dancing Girl at Belvoir St Theatre (2024). Images by Brett Boardman

Nayika is preparing for her Arangetram, a significant event in the life of Bharatanatyam dancers, as they are debuted to the public at the culmination of years of dedication to their craft. The word Arangetram translates literally to “ascending the stage” and is held in high esteem by audiences due to their grace and beauty held in the art of the dance. Nagarajan and Satchell use this purposefully as a vehicle for the style of storytelling of Nayika, with the production resembling what makes Bharatanatyam dance so captivating. The production itself indeed transcends the stage.

As we journey through Nayika’s story we meet her new love, one that was banned at a young age and as her memories come flooding back, we are led to a much darker, and extraordinarily prevalent story that echoes beyond the stage and into the cultural climate outside.

Belvoir St are opening and creating spaces for diverse stories to be told

Throughout we are met with humour and joy at the feeling of a first love. We are shown dedication and poise when developing your art. We are guided through authentic Indian language and music. Ultimately, we are shown the very real face of trauma, aggression and sexual violence at the hands of a man. 

Morgan Moroney’s lighting is utterly breathtaking. Moroney transforms the stage at each moment of Nayika’s story, creating visuals that will stay with you after the show, and moments that enhance emotion and elements of the storytelling. The use of an empty stage allows Moroney, Nagarajan and Satchell to create worlds using Suryaprakash as their vessel.

...amongst the most honest, poignant and raw pieces of storytelling on offer

Coupled with Cher-Gibard’s sound design, and the violin from Raman, you are utterly entranced throughout. There’s not a moment you won’t be taken on board Suryaprakash’s utter command of the stage.

Along with Lose to Win which is running in conjunction with Nayika, as well as عورت راج औरत राज Aurat Raj in the downstairs theatre, Belvoir St are opening and creating spaces for diverse stories to be told that are as timely and well-produced as any other mainstage theatre around. 

Nayika: A Dancing Girl is amongst the most honest, poignant and raw pieces of storytelling on offer in Sydney this May. It may just be the most beautiful piece of new theatre I’ve seen so far this year. 



Co-Creator and Co-Director Nithya Nagarajan

Co-Creator and Co-Director Liv Satchell

Sound Designer And Composer Marco Cher-Gibard

Set and Costume Designer Keerthi Subramanyam

Lighting Designer Morgan Moroney

Dramaturg S. Shakthidharan

Production Dramaturg Carissa Licciardello

Fight Choreographer Maria Tran

Creative Producer Zainab Syed

Creative Consultant Christopher Gurusamy

Stage Manager Tanya Leach

with Vaishnavi Suryaprakash, Marco Cher-Gibard, Bhairavi Raman


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