‘Sagarakanyaka,' a production of Abhinaya, will be staged at the World Theatre Festival in Brisbane. Andrew Ross, director, Brisbane Powerhouse Arts, and Robert Davidson, artistic director of Topology, talk about value additions they hope to contribute to the play.

“Theatre is a ritual; a human need. Be it out in the great Victorian Desert witnessing a performance or in Indonesia watching puppetry, you enjoy being there. Human beings come together to entertain each other and tell stories,” says Andrew Ross, director, Brisbane Powerhouse Arts, Brisbane, Australia. And what brings him to Thiruvananthapuram? The blueprint he has in mind is an ensemble production where, Thiruvananthapuram-based Abhinaya Theatre Research Centre's ‘Sagarakanyaka,' a re-telling of Henrik Ibsen's play ‘The Lady from the Sea,' will have live music designed by Robert Davidson, artistic director of Topology Music group.

This ensemble will be presented before international audiences and festival directors, such as the Director of the Ibsen Festival, Norway. Andrew, though, is quick to rid us of any fears that we may have about the final product being hyped as ‘market driven art.'

Readdressing the classics

These days international theatre is witnessing a readdressing of the classics, of which Ibsen's plays are very much a part of. Moreover, Abhinaya's production is a fresh look at Ibsen's play and certainly draws on the essence of what the playwright was interested in and meant – a contemplative look at marriage. “This was the best I saw at the Bharat Rangotsav in New Delhi. It was interesting to see what was happening in Indian theatre,” says Andrew.

The World Theatre Festival scheduled for February 2012 in Brisbane is conceived in a manner that it showcases companies that are not already in the circuit.

“I see how much ‘Sagarakanyaka' is a work of this environment – influences that have shaped the culture, have been produced with candour, courage, and discipline, with no sense of showing off, to tell the story,” says Andrew about this play directed by M.G. Jyothish.

Adds Andrew: “At Brisbane Powerhouse Arts we present a lot of work in genres as varied as theatre, dance, and music. For collaborative productions we work together from scratch, but a lot of happy coincidences have altered the approach to this particular play.”

The original production of ‘Sagarakanyaka' had incorporated recorded music as an element. For music composer Robert, Kerala is not a new experience, considering his exposure and orientation in Sopana sangeetham under theatre personality Kavalam Narayana Panikar, and musician Kavalam Sreekumar.

“I would not have seen myself being involved with Malayalam theatre. The significant input will be to identify the role of music here. In Western theatre, music is narrative whereas in India it is used as a ‘rasa' to add colour to the landscape, and may be a hypnotic presence in ritual arts such as Theyyam. I'm recording the sound of the sea at Kovalam as well as in Queensland, and in the coming few months will compose the music to be performed live for ‘Sagarakanyaka,”' says the musician.

According to him, there is therapy in such a production because: “You connect. The play externalises aspects of the individual. When one locates in new forms, it gives us that potential to identify some parts of ourselves represented here.”

Clear understanding

The clear understanding that he has of the Indian ethos is evident when he adds: “The epics have that function of describing and discovering the parts in you, which you are denying. The play is quite archetypical and universal. Such a universe exists inside each one of us, of which the ocean is a symbol.”

Andrew assures us that the “minimalist and aesthetically designed” ‘Sagarakanyaka' will be back in India, and adds that they are already looking at the prospects of working with Abhinaya on another project, which will draw on the Indian epics and present “a spectacle.”