Through the Lens

Written by Sudha Bhuchar / Produced by Theatre of Debate


In 2022 Theatre of Debate joined with Indian artist Sushank Kumar as part of the British Council Delhi India-UK and Science Museum Group’s ‘Injecting Hope’ Exhibition.

The British Council’s India-UK Together project marks the 75th anniversary of India’s independence with a major arts and cultural and education programme to strengthen bilateral cultural relations.

In an artwork titled ‘The Lens’, a nine-foot sculpture created by Sushank Kumar, was surrounded by screens running three animated films telling the story of the Three Queens of Mysore, by playwright Sudha Bhuchar, animator Tony Pickering and produced by Artistic Director Nigel Townsend.

The exhibition opened in Delhi in November and over the next five years will tour to Nagpur (Aug 2023-Dec 2023), Mumbai (Feb 2024-Jul 2024), Bangalore (Sep 2024-Feb 2025) and Kolkata (Apr 2025-Sep 2025).

In addition to the British Council commission, Theatre of Debate have been awarded Arts Council Research and Development funding which is enabling us to develop and produce two new plays.

A 60-minute play ‘The Lady Gems of Mysore’ (working title) by Sudha Bhuchar to be performed by professional actors, for audiences aged 14 and above.

A synopsis for a 30-minute play ‘Stay Still’ (working title) by Claudia Fielding to be performed by young people, for audiences aged 14 and above.

Both the exhibition and the plays are inspired by the extraordinary story behind the 1805 portrait of Three Queens from Mysore – described as “one of the most important scientific pictures in the history of medicine in India”, showing three Indian queens receiving the smallpox vaccine to encourage participation in the world’s first vaccine programme.

The creation of the scripts by Sudha Bhuchar and Claudia Fielding kicked off with a generator workshop at Batley Girls’ School in West Yorkshire

Workshop Focus

During the workshop the presenters, young people and artists explored some of the following:

During the workshop the presenters, young people and artists explored some of the following

  • The story and research associated with the ‘Portrait of the Three Queens of Mysore’
  • The history and legacy of the Smallpox vaccine
  • Historic and current public attitudes towards vaccination
  • Anti Vaccine Movement
  • Parallels between this story and today’s ongoing Covid-19 Pandemic
  • Vaccination politicking
  • Community engagement in vaccination campaigns

The following researchers contributed to the workshop

Prof Sue Pavitt

Sue did her PhD in cancer genetics at UCL and has studied at the University of Oxford and University of California San Francisco, USA. She specialises in clinical trial research and at the University of Leeds, she is a valued Science Communicator and Ambassador for Patient, Public Involvement and Engagement with Research. Sue is passionate about encouraging research inclusivity and works with & for underserved communities to tackle health inequality & literacy.

Prof Michael Reiss

Vaccine Hesitancy Why Trust Science and Science Education.  Length: 13.52

About – bioethicist, educator, and journalist. He is also an Anglican priest and professor of science education at the Institute of Education, University College London, where he is assistant director, research and development.

Dr Apurba Chatterjee Department of History Reading University

Dr Apurba Chatterjee – Department of History

The Three Queens of Mysore, Colonialism, Visual Culture and the History of Medicine

About: Dr Apurba is a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow in humanities and social science – areas of interest British Empire, India, Histories of Medicine and Science, Visual Culture, Postcolonialism, New Imperial History

Dr Maheshi Ramasamy

Maheshi Ramasamy
Interview with Dr Maheshi Ramasamy

About : Associate Professor, Senior Clinical Researcher, Principal Investigator Oxford Vaccine group Maheshi Ramasamy received her undergraduate medical training at Christ’s College, Cambridge. She subsequently trained as a junior doctor in Infectious Diseases and General Internal Medicine in Oxford, London and Australia and obtained a DPhil from Wadham College, Oxford.  As a clinician scientist based at the Oxford Vaccine Group, Maheshi’s research interest is in adaptive immune responses to vaccines. She leads on early and late phase clinical trials in healthy adults with a particular focus on enteric infections.

She is a Consultant Physician at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the Deputy Director of the Graduate Entry Medicine course at the University of Oxford and a Fellow by Special Election at Magdalen College.

His Highness Yaduveer Wadiyar Maharaja of Mysore

interview with Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar

About:  Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar,  is  the 27th and present titular Maharaja of Mysore, and the head of the former ruling Wodeyar dynasty. He  was installed as the “Maharaja of Mysore” in a private ceremony in 2015

We will continue to work with Batley Girls’ School and the experts and the theatre makers throughout the development process.