Spurning the conventional, The Hindu MetroPlus Theatre Fest 2010 has found a jaunty character of its own.

Come August and Chennai plunges into the “drama season” with The Hindu MetroPlus Theatre Fest, which will be held from August 6 to 15 at the Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Concert Hall, Harrington Road, Chetpet. The fest sports national and international colours, juxtaposing the spectacular with the spare, the classic with the avant-garde.

Spurning the conventional, The Hindu MetroPlus Theatre Fest 2010 has found a jaunty character of its own. The sixth edition showcases works original or adapted from drama and fiction, monodrama and story telling, the non-verbal, the non-narrative — the plays in this fest defy easy slotting as tragedy and comedy. What we have instead is an arabesque of the pensive dark and frothy light.

Theatre buffs expect nothing but the most spectacular from Korea, and the opening play ‘Break Out: Extreme Dance Comedy' (Sevensense and Yegam Theatre Company, Korea, August 6) says it all in its very title. This side-splitting comedy brings five lumbering prisoners, bored with their killing gaol routine, making a dash for freedom. The play morphs bizarre adventure into musical gymnastics. Rollicking dance and rambunctious movements highlight humane camaraderie among the lost waifs. This play is presented with the help of InKo Centre and Show & Arts Inc, with support from the Korea Tourism Organisation.

‘Ms. Meena' (Perch, Chennai, August 7), the festival's commissioned production, directed by Rajiv Krishnan, turns a Kollywood theme into atypical entertainment. When an iconic film star returns to her native village, former lover Ravi appeals to the dream girl for assistance on behalf of the community. Ms. Meena agrees, but demands a shocking price. This is a bold and inventive re-imagining of a Swiss play, ‘The Visit', which is layered with music and which makes extremely intelligent use of props.

This play has been made possible with the support of the Goethe-Institut and pro Helvetia — The Swiss Arts Council.

Poignant tale

Expectations are high for ‘Taramandal' (The Tadpole Repertory, New Delhi, August 8), winner of the MetroPlus Playwright Award this year. The play is based on Satyajit Ray's poignant short story about Patol Babu, who gets a chance, at the unattractive age of 50, to fulfil his lifelong dream of appearing on the big screen. Writer/director Neel Chaudhuri constructs parallel narratives to extend this fragment into a full-fledged drama, with flashback and mirror image, highlighting a basic human urge: ambition.

Studying dysfunction

Sitcom comedy — befuddled newly-weds with intrusive in-laws from both sides popping in and out of their new life together — turns into a study of personal dysfunction in Ayub Khan-Din's original play, which won the Laurence Olivier Award for the Best New Comedy in 2008, and premiered at the National Theatre, London.

This production of ‘Rafta Rafta' (HuM Theatre, Singapore, August 12), directed by Dinkar Jani, is an adaptation, which follows a young Singaporean couple compelled to live with the bridegroom's parents as they are buffeted by the unstoppable nosiness of the elders. Even the bedroom is not invasion-free in this zany portrait of strongly-etched characters.

This play has been brought to Chennai with the support of the Singapore Tourism Board.

The ever-prevalent theme of marriage and jockeying for favours in a joint family is unfolded in ‘Khatijabai of Karmali Terrace' (Q Theatre Productions, Mumbai, August 13). The original theme from Singapore's ‘Emily of Emerald Hill' is transposed to Mumbai's Khoja community. Adapted and directed by Quasar Thakore Padamsee, the play follows protagonist Khatija, an orphan who displays many guiles and wiles in achieving supremacy as the matriarch of the clan.

Mike Daisey has virtually created a personal genre of story telling with his own brand of on-the-spot improvisations. His compelling act comes to Chennai with ‘The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” (U.S., August 13) where the monologist narrativises the odyssey of the CEO of Apple whose meteoric rise to wealth and power becomes a parable for our times. True, mastering technology is to master the world, but with empowerment comes enslavement. The new face of exploitation and U.S. imperialism is presented with Daisey's searing irony and stark humour.

This play is being performed with the support of the U.S. Consulate General, Chennai.

After Chennai, Mike Daisey will travel to Hyderabad, New Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai for additional performances and workshops sponsored by the American Center in cooperation with The Hindu MetroPlus Theatre Fest.

The most unabashedly experimental production in the fest comes from Kerala. ‘Quick Death' (Theatre Roots and Wings, Thrissur, August 14) has 51 scenes in which images shift and dissolve into one another. Speech is confined to one scene, and to gibberish. Causality and linear narrative are junked in this play, along with conventional concepts of time, space, action and illusion. Written by Richard Murphet and directed by Sankar Venkateswaran, this 50-minute drama is a coruscating wave of disconnections.

The fest offers much variety in acting, direction, design and writing. 'One on One' (Rage, Mumbai, August 15) is a mini cocktail of an India in which absurdities and paradoxes co-exist with splendid ease. Six directors and six actors in search of monologues and duologues, in English and Hindi, zip through a bewildering range of subjects — tricky, teasing, tantalising, trauma-ridden — from the legalisation of homosexuality and tasteless airline khana to Kasab's ludicrous trial. Take your pick.

(Title Sponsor: Bose Corporation India Private Limited; Co-Sponsors: Unitech Ltd., LG Electronics India Pvt Ltd., Ebony Gautier, Nippon Paint, Max Bupa Health Insurance Co. Ltd., Mahindra Holidays and Resorts Ltd.; Cultural Partner: The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR); Hospitality Partner: The Park; Event Manager: Evam Entertainment)

Follow the festival on www.thehindu.com/theatrefest

For tickets

Tickets are priced at Rs. 600, Rs. 350 and Rs. 200 (balcony). Season passes are available for Rs. 3,500 and Rs. 2,100.

Tickets for all shows can be purchased online at www.hindu.com/theatrefest.

Tickets will also be available from July 23 (Friday) at the venue (Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Concert Hall, Lady Andal School, Harrington Road, Chetpet) and all four outlets of Landmark (Spencer Plaza, Apex Plaza, Nungambakkam, Chennai Citi Centre and Ampa Skywalk) and The Hindu office, 859 & 860 Anna Salai, Chennai 600002, (between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.).

It’s your space — know more about the Theatre Fest through a new blog

This year, get up close and personal with the folks behind the fest at the first-ever The Hindu MetroPlus Theatre Festival blog (metrotheatrefest.com).

Get a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes action, take a trip back in time to find out how it all began and hear from participants of the fest past and present through exclusive content on the blog — videos, photos, interviews, and candid write-ups by the people who’re making it all happen. It’s laidback, it’s interactive, and it’s your space to get to know the fest better.

Plus, stay clued in to the happenings at the fest through regular updates on Facebook and Twitter. And keep an eye out for online contests that will give you a chance to win free passes to the plays.

So log on and check in. On stage and online, there’s a whole lot going on this year.