Despite flaws, ‘Jist' staged by Thespian En showed how this group loves acting

You act because you want to forget yourself… You act because you would go mad if you didn't act.

Kean by Jean Paul Sartre

Theatre is demanding, unpredictable, exhausting. Running a theatre group centred around amateur talent is even more challenging. A group like Ajit Chitturi's Thespian En survives on grit, faith and passion.

Keeping that in mind makes it easier to appreciate their latest production ‘Jist.' An ambitious project, it's a collection of crucial scenes from high-powered playwrights: challenging even for a team of weathered professionals, given the fact that stormy emotion needs to be built up slowly to be effective. At Jist, every story began at a dramatic peak, making helpless slides inevitable.

The performance began with Rabindranath Tagore's version of the tension-fraught meeting between Karna and Kunti, between preparations for war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas. Swashbuckling Kean, the talented and self-destructive actor who inspired Jean Paul Sartre, followed. The next piece, also by Sartre, was ‘Nekrassov', a biting satire on thoughtless anti-Communist propaganda. And finally, there was ‘Caligula' by Albert Camus.

The performance, staged at the Edouard Michelin Auditorium, Alliance Francaise, was weakened by the landmines of amateur theatre: unconvincing characterisation, flailing energy and some overacting. But it was neat and well-rehearsed, rescued by enthusiasm and good intention. The audience was incidental. Thespian En acts because they must.

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Shonali MuthalalyMay 11, 2012