It’s hard to define TEN, by Hetain Patel. It’s not a play and to call it a monologue would unjustly discredit the role of the two drummers, Mark and Dave. A performance might be getting warmer but that doesn’t seem to account for the element of honest- and at times seemingly spontaneous- dialogue that Patel uses. Nor does it give credit to Patel’s ease on stage, his tales of memories from childhood and the questions he asks without the need for immediate answers. Then again, you get the impression Patel doesn’t search to apply such a neat definition to this piece. Much like the red turmeric powder (Kanku), thrown by the fistful in the air during the performance, TEN is just as free and symbolic and very much a mirror on our cultural identity as it is on Patel’s.
There is no real beginning to TEN, just a casual slip into a conversation from Patel, as if we are rediscovered friends in need to hear his story. The most central theme comes from Patel’s discoveries from learning about Indian classical music and how he uses these lessons in his search to feel more of a connection to his culture. Through physical demonstrations from the trio, Hetain, Mark and Dave, we are shown the nature of a ten beat rhythm cycle. The rhythm is off beat, seemingly with no beginning or end. The concept of cycles is key to the performance and we are given the impression that even Patel’s cultural journey follows the same cyclical nature of the ten beat rhythm; his mother tongue being Gujarati, his adolescent shift towards English culture and then eventually coming back to rediscovering his Indian roots some years later. Patel’s exploration paves the way to much wider and deeper themes, such as what it means to be Indian and where our origins and sense of identity truly come from.
Patel uses his own experiences to raise themes that any first generation Briton can relate to. How should we take ownership over our identity in the 21st century? How can we feel a part of our culture; that of our parents and of our current day ? Are saying the right words and going through the motions enough? Is it something that has to be earned or does the answer lie in our blood alone? Again, Patel doesn’t search for neat solutions and, realistic in his cultural journey, offers more questions than answers. However with his no thrills set, contrasted against the vibrancy of the Kanku and original choreography, we are invited on the journey to explore these themes of culturalism and to reflect on how we can pay unique tribute to our own cultural DNA.