Information and Public Relations Department of Kerala opens up a new vista of cultural extravaganza, National Theatre Festival, to the art aficionados of Kerala, which is scheduled from March 2-12, 2009 in Thiruvananthapuram. ‘The fifth episode of the festival highlights the theme- Modern-Contemporary Theatre will be a unique experience with the presence of up-to-the-date drama techniques, a real light and sound show without losing the essence of drama’ says the website of PRD of the govt of Kerala.
The festival showcases plays of famous directors like Habib Tanvir, Neelam man Singh Chaudhary, Kanaihalal, and Rajiv Krishnan, along with Jyothish M.G, Shanmugaraja , Zuilekha Choudhary, Pabitra Rabha, Maya Krishna Rao, Sankar Venkateswaran, Santanu Bose and Veenapani Chawla.
Most of the plays belong to the Post-Globalization Era; with Fragmented, Mutilated, Multilingual, Inter-textual, Intercultural experiments with technical extravaganza….
Macbeth (Malayalam) - Jyothish MG- Abhinaya, Thiruvanathapuram (2nd March)
Jyotish MG’s adaptation of ‘Macbeth’ speaks a language of its own. The 65-minute play focuses on key incidents in the lives of the main characters —Macbeth, Lady Macbeth and Banquo. Realising that the audience would be well aware of the plot, the director has shifted stress on emotions and internal conflicts.
Kuthirai Muttai (Tamil) – Shanmugaraja- Nigazh Madurai (3rd march)
M. Shanmugaraja’s play ‘Kuthirai Muttai’ (Horse egg) of Constantine Joseph Beschi, an Italian Jesuit Priest, who was popularly known as ‘Veeramamunivar’., who had learnt Tamil language with an intention to befriend and inspire Tamil-speaking public and in turn got inspired and fell in love with the language itself. The play captures the essence of humour depicting the sage and his whimsically humorous journey in pursuit of disciples.
On Seeing (English) – Zuilekha Choudhary –Performers at Work,
Sangathi Arinhya! - have you heard (English, Malayalam, Tamil)- Rajiv Krishnan – Perch Chennai (5th March)
''Sangathi Arinhya! (Have you heard!)’ is an adventurous mix of seven stories by Basheer, all different, but with a common vein of love, humor and pathos running through them. A connecting link in this heady concoction is the character of Basheer himself, who plays narrator, participant and witness in turn. These stories are blended together in a non-linear narrative that reveals the extraordinary range of Basheer’s writing and experiences. Paul Mathew who was with Lokadharmi during the early nineties has written the script and also acts in the lead role as Basheer.
A Chik A –Song (Garo) – Pabitra Rabha –
Pabitra Rabha’s Garo a young NSD graduate in his play A-chik A song, the first ever play in Garo language depicts the culture of the Garos and dealt with the Garo community’s socio-political history and an episode of their armed resistance against the British. The director uses elements from the rich Garo folk tales, traditional costume and music.
Sahyande Makan- The Elephant Project (Malayalam-Japanese) - Sankar Venkateswaran - Theatre Roots & Wings- Thrissur (7th March)
Based on the poem by Vyloppilly Sreedhara Menon, the play depicts the conflict between internal and external realities as symbolized by an elephant reminiscing and hallucinating about his childhood. Set against the Temple Festivals of Kerala this turn out to be a multi-sensory and multi-lingual, inter-cultural construct, with the elephant portrayed by Japanese performer, Micari; Micari used her eyes, lips and body to animate many an unsaid emotion and the silences seemed more powerful than the intermittent Japanese or Malayalam. Sankar who was featured in the last year’s edition of the same festival, uses instruments from our mizhavu to the Australian didgeridoo, to fireworks to Recreating the feel of the Thrissur Pooram. Remember Sankar was featured in last edition of the festival with his technically precise ‘Quick Death’.
Charandas Chor (Chhattisgarhi) – Habib Tanvir - Naya Theatre
This classic masterpiece play by Habib Tanvir returns to Kerala again. The tumultuous life of a petty thief Charandas, who makes four vows to his Guru, that he would never to eat in a gold plate, never to lead a procession that is in his honour, never to become a king and never to marry a princess, thinking all of them are far out possibilities for him. Later, his guru adds a fifth one - never to tell a lie and sets him of on his life's journey which leads him to a kingdom, where the turn of events make him famous, and eventually he is offered the seat of political power which he has to refuse. The local princess gets enchanted by him, and proposes to marry him. This is when his refusal costs him his life. As he is put to death, he illustrates the inherent paradox in human existence, where truthful existence becomes impossibility.
An exciting production, with the exuberant wit and energy of the Chhattisgarhi village performers of Naya Theatre, with improvised dialogue, music, songs and dance is the play that redefined Indian theatre. Habib Tanvir's adaptation of this comic folk tale has been acclaimed throughout
But this time, we miss Habib Tanvir with this illustrious production since ill health prevents him travel with the group.
Antigone (Bengali) – Santanu Bose – Saltlake Monirath Group Theatre Kolkota (9th march)
The play is based on the Greek legend of Antigone, who takes on the establishment for not granting her permission to perform the last rites of one of her two brothers who died fighting on opposite sides of the border. The tale of confrontation between the individual and the establishment was portrayed in the present context with politics of division, violence and people turning inhuman. Santanu says the inspiration is drawn from the recent Nandigram and Singur incidents and to showcase how human beings have learnt to live with violence around; the play has Kolkata's chicken market in the background.
The Hare and the Tortoise – (Malayalam- English) - Veenapani Chawla - Adishakti Theatre Company
For Veenapani Chawla, theatre is a ‘synaesthesis’ of the arts that allows the transition from one form of expression to another aimed to have a powerful and sensorial impact on the spectator. She attempts to contemporize traditional knowledge and create a theatre that does not restrict itself to literary connotations. It involves other forms of art like dance, music, movements, puppets and craft ;the boundaries set by each form blends to bring out, a new contemporary theatre -- the result of engaging in dialogues between different times, cultures and spaces, and genres. In The Hare and the Tortoise, the race between the archetypal competitors such as Ganapati and Kartik, Ekalavya and Arjuna, and Arjuna and Hamlet is performed in a non-linier narrative with body movements, the light, the word and the music…
Daak-Ghar (Manipuri) – Kanhailal - Kalakshetra Manipur (11th March)
This play is directed by Heisnam Kanhailal, which multilingual is a multilingual production in Manipuri, Bengali, Assamese, Rabha, Bodo and Tripuri, that explores the workings of one's soul. This play is an adaptation of Rabindra Nath Tagore play that describes how a child – striving to escape his stuffy confines – ultimately “falls asleep”. Kanhailal’s adapted version of the Tagore play has 60 year old Sabitri Haisnam playing the lead role of young Amal, with her extraordinary expressive ability – through physical, non-verbal theatre. The production uses lyrical Manipuri dance and H. Tomba’s music.
Heads Are Meant for Walking Into (Multilingual) - Maya
Heads Are Meant for Walking Into is, a non-linear, non-narrative, and non-sentimental construct — in a typical Maya Rao inspired from a short story by Saadat Hasan Manto, where a father is in search for his lost daughter in a crowd of fleeing people. The performance seeks not to tell this story, rather to develop a range of physical actions and emotions that grows in intensity and depth to a point where he begins to find her in himself, in his body; and finally, in the heightened world of dance. This production, with intersecting music and percussion, live and recorded video feeds, and amplified live speech has a minimal verbal text. The solo actor’s body hovers between being a ‘character’ and a ‘presenter’ without sharp delineation, -- a production so technologically ‘constructed’, tends towards a fragmented abstraction.
The Suit (Punjabi) - Neelam Mansingh (12th March) – The company
Neelam Mansingh’s “The Suit”, a play in English and Punjabi, based on a theatrical fable written by South African writer Can Themba. This play explores the man-woman relationship in all its depths without being judgmental, and offers neither explanation for the betrayal by the wife who is discovered in bed with her lover by her husband nor any justification for the subsequent behavior of the husband.
The husband decries that the suit left by the lover be treated like an honored guest and ensures it “sits” on the dinner table with them, even goes out for walks and is treated like a guest at a party thrown by the couple.
Finally the wife transforms into a woman of her own by going on to wear the suit with an endearing quality of a woman who is proclaiming “it (the suit) is my skin”.
Mansingh, with a set, ideal for domestic squalor, distorts stage space and time for a complex narrative in which there is simultaneous action in two spaces and uses the setting for multiple locations; her theatrical idiom uses minimal music, lights and sets. Neelam uses all her favourite images - water, fire and smoke from the stove, bathing, food in a tiffin box, and lipstick.
The theatre activists of Kerala are looking forward to this event in anticipation. But the festival can be organised at different venues of the state other than Thiruvananthapuram, (last year also it was held in Thiruvananthapuram) or at least take few of the productions to the other cities to organize a satellite festival.