Sieudass Sadhu defied colonial powers to chart his own destiny in the annals of history. Now more than 60 years later, Sadhu’s story came to life as noted director, author and orator Victor Edwards, in association with Iere Theatre Productions Limited, reenacted his struggles in a performance titled, Temple in the Sea. The show was held on June 15 at the Naparima Bowl, San Fernando. Based on the historical Temple in the Sea monument in Waterloo, the dramatic production captivated the audience from beginning to end. The play followed the trials and tribulations of Sadhu, an Indian indentured servant who attempted to construct a temple in honour of his religion. After many years of failed attempts and terror faced from the colonial forces, Sadhu decided to build a temple “on no man’s land” which was reclaimed from the sea. With no proper tools, Sadhu carried rocks one by one to build the epic temple, which forms part of T&T’s tourism landscape. The performance, directed by Edwards, undertook a different angle in telling a familiar story. The 14-member cast triggered pity in the hearts of the audience, as they showed how a tormented Sadhu was when he was jailed for 14 days for building a temple on the lands owned by the Tate and Lyle sugar company (forerunners of Caroni 1975) Limited.
However, the play was interjected with doses of comedy as Sadhu’s detractors made fun of him while he fulfilled his dream of constructing a temple. While he laboured, his detractors mocked him calling him a mad man. The most impressive element of the show was the use of song and dance to relate how Sadhu struggled for 25 years to realise his dream. Edwards was able to harness classical Indian music and tassa drums to depict Sadhu’s story of resilience and perseverance. Music provided by the Carib Caribel Fun Lover’s Tassa group and a live band, including classical Indian instruments such as the harmonium, chowtal and drums enhanced the overall performance of the play. The vibrant songs and dance made the audience believe they were part of an Indian classical movie. According to Edwards, the play was performed at this time to not only commemorate the nation’s Independence but also to build on the story’s message through which the Sadhu’s “perseverance, persistence, resolution, doggedness and patience,” was displayed. Edwards said Sadhu’s struggles should be used to “build a deep meaning for nationhood” among citizens. The calypso art form was also used to underscore the significance of struggle to preservation of cultural self-identity.
Martin Sahadath, who portrayed Sadhu, gave a compelling performance complete with a pronounced Hindi accent. Not being limited to the stage, the actors utilised the entire Naparima Bowl space, including the audience, who were employed as props. They were encouraged to engage in the performance during several scenes of the play. Another notable performer was Avion Crooks who played an authoritative Christian teacher. Her commanding voice kept the audience captivated as she swept through the crowds, whip in tow, commanding the “Jesus-loving, God-fearing Christian children” to raise their hands up and down. The terrified children stepped away from the whip, much to the delight of the audience. Additionally, the “Manraj” portrayed by Chandraban Ramnarace danced through the audience making a grand entrance and kept the audience amused by his comedic role as the Indians danced and worshipped him believing that he was their Saviour. The costumes, props and lighting all added to the performance, from the bright and colourful costumes of Manraj, the wealthy Indian man, to the simple white costume worn by Sieudass Sadhu. At the end of the show, many expressed their appreciation for the way Edwards portrayed the story of Sadhu—a man who defied the odds to protect his culture.