The eight-day National Theatre Festival was made rich with the presence of representative Malayalam plays from different eras and outlooks.

The 11th National Theatre Festival, which was held at the Tagore Theatre in Thiruvananthapuram, presented five Malayalam plays that were representative of traditional as well as modern schools.

Abhinaya's ‘Sagarakanyaka,' the inaugural play, was an adaptation of Ibsen's ‘The Lady from the Sea.' The multi-media production and the fine portrayals by Reghuthaman and Parvati spoke volumes for the skill of the director of the play, M.G. Jyothish. It was a taut essay on the constraints and pressures of inter-personal relationships and marital ties.

‘Kootukrishi' was the next Malayalam play that was staged. “The theme of the play, written by Edassery, is still relevant. It is against the divisive tendencies in our society in the name of caste, religion and politics. The play underlines the need for cooperation in the society,” says Narippetta Raju who directed the play.

‘Pravachaka,' by Nireeksha, on the mythological character Cassandra had everything to captivate the audience. With her gift of prophesy, Cassandra could see what is in store for her family. But in a patriarchal world, her voice is lost amid the din of battle. The choreography and the music took the performance to a higher level. Athira portrayed the character of Cassandra with élan. Raja Warrier (Priam) and Rajesh Sharma (Apollo) also excelled. Directed by C.V. Sudhi, ‘Pravachaka' was scripted by Rajarajeshwari.

Synergy on stage

Students of Sree Shankaracharya University, Kaladi presented the play ‘Iruvattam Manavatti,' a Malayalam opera. The play was an adaptation from the 12th century Chinese tale ‘Twice a bride' written by an anonymous author. Veteran theatre person Ramesh Varma directed the play.

As the name suggests it narrates the story of a Chinese woman, Yunu who has to marry the same man – Mochi – twice in her life. “I tried to tell the story in an innovative way. The interactions produced a synergy on the stage,” says the director.

‘Avanavan Kadampa,' conceptualised by Kavalam Narayana Panikkar was first directed by the late G. Aravindan in 1974. It was a landmark drama that influenced generations of theatre lovers in Kerala. Sopanam Theatre recreated it with aplomb. The play begins with the performance of two groups of actors, the Pattuparishakal and the Attapandarangal. Blending folk art forms into the texture of the narrative elevated the play into poetry. The play was staged outdoors. Satheesan, Gireesh, Saji and Saritha performed their roles with ease.

“Theatre is an organic art, in which you can't possibly replace human presence with technology,” says Kavalam.

Powerful adaptation

Nevertheless, technology joined hands with performance for the play ‘Spinal Cord' by Oxygen theatre group. Directed by Deepan Sivaraman, it is a powerful adaptation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez' ‘A Chronicle of a Death Foretold.' The story exudes Marquesian magical realism as it tells the harrowing plight of an old mother whose son was hacked to death. Gopalan's portrayal of the old mother who wakes from her sleep haunted by nightmares was unforgettable. The plot moves in many directions simultaneously with the rejection of a woman by her husband at its core. Humour and pathos are mixed liberally and the various visual elements vie for attention on stage. The multimedia presentation in the background further deepened the plot.

The audience was waiting with bated breath for the legendary play by KPAC, ‘Ningalenne Communstakki' written by Thoppil Bhasi.

The socio-political play, originally intended to popularise the leftist ideology, evoked nostalgia. The audience burst into applause when the song ‘Ponnarivalambiliyilu Kanneriyunnole…' was played.

The fete was organised by the Public Relations Department of the Government of Kerala.