Hold your breath. Laugh out loud. Sing a little. Cry a little. That's the best thing about theatre. An entire gamut of emotions compressed into a couple of hours. Call it cathartic. Or just entertainment. Either way, it's a satisfying way to spend an evening. And just to make it more interesting, this year we're featuring more stories, ideas and drama than ever before.

The MetroPlus Theatre Fest 2011 brings a total of seven plays to Chennai, over the course of two weekends. Take your pick. Or even better, pick them all.

Kkok-Du

Creative Group Noni (Korea)

August 12

The Korean play, Kkok-Du is based on an old folk tale. This tale, replete with human drama, stormy emotion and earthy humour, like all good folk tales, has been passed on orally from generation to generation. It begins with a gypsy shaman with a talent for puppetry. Then come the vagrant acrobats and fiesty clowns. Add dancing monks and a fearsome monster, and you get a tale that's as colourful as it is beguiling. But that's not all that makes it unique.

Kkok-Du is being staged by a young, idealistic and driven company called Creative Group Noni. Formed in 2006 by graduates from the Korea National University of Arts, the group consists of artists dedicated to traditional Korean culture, whether it's traditional dance, music or visual arts. They aim to find ways to connect with contemporary audiences, while respecting the past.

Director Kyung hee Kim intends ‘to ravish the five senses' with his playful, onomatopoeic collage of scenes from the villages. There will be puppets. There will be masks. There will even be dancing shadows. All set to music. Get set for a journey to places you've never visited before, a combination of the exotic and the familiar, of unusual stories and universal truths.

This production is being staged with the support of INKO Centre, in association with The Korea Foundation, Korea Arts Management Service and Performing Arts Market Seoul.

Chasing My Mamet Duck

evam (Chennai)

August 13

What do ducks have to do with all the drama of your life? Well, we're pleased to introduce you to David Mamet, whose 1972 play, ‘The Duck Variations' introduced a convenient metaphor for love and longing, happiness and loss, fears and failings. Mamet, a Pulitzer-winning playwright, developed a style of writing dialogue that was so distinctive, with it's cynical slant and street-smart edge that it began to be called ‘Mamet speak.' Now watch his prose come to life — with a twist.

Presented by Evam, a young theatre group from Chennai, ‘Trailing my Mamet Duck,' is an engaging interpretation of the play. Director Karthik Kumar says the Duck is pretty much a search for “what is and what could be.” In this production, they intend to push the boundaries of theatre creating a spectacle that transcends the stage. Don't sit back. Because they also intend to involve you.

Yes, you still have to switch off your mobile phones. And no, we still don't approve of you spending all evening crouched over your Blackberry. But for one night only, you get to connect with each other as an audience. Bringing down the Fourth wall is so passé. Now it's all about social transactions — a new process that urges you to invest and, therefore, take something back home.

‘Trailing the Mamet Duck' is all about creating the perfect spot in this world for ourselves, and hence for the world around. Welcome to this search…

The Real Inspector Hound

Quaff Theatre (Mumbai)

August 14

Who can resist a good old whodunit? Though, to be honest, this isn't entirely a whodunit. It's not entirely a comedy either. Though there is a substantial amount of mystery. Also plenty of laughs. And, of course, course, there's a murder. In an old country house. It's all very Agatha Christie. (Conjure up ‘The Mousetrap' in your head for the appropriate stage and props.) A closed setting. A list of suspects. One of them is the killer.

Created by Tom Stoppard, this play is a rollicking example of theatre of the absurd. It's also a satire, a farce, a parody. Confused? Well, this production, directed by Nayantara Kotian and Prashant Prakash of Quaff Theatre, gets even more rambunctiously convoluted.

Mainly because two theatre critics get sucked into the action. Moon is a second-string theatre critic, a jealous stand in for Higgs, who's far more established. Birdboot, also a theatre critic, is a married womaniser who writes dazzling reviews to ensnare dazzling actresses.

To add to the chaos, there's a madman at large in the deadly marshes region. Inspector Hound, who is masterminding the operation, is not available for comment. But it is widely believed that he has a secret plan. We hope it's more intuitive than the present plan: police and volunteers combing the swamps shouting, “Don't be a madman, give yourself up.”

Get involved with the twists, turns, and somersaults that weave their way through all the conventions of a murder mystery with a high powered cast that includes Bollywood actor Kalki Koechlin. You will be guessing all the way.

The Interview

Akvarious Productions (Mumbai)

August 15

This dark comedy swept the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards 2011, winning Best Play, Best Actor (Karan Pandit), Best Stage Design and Best Supporting Actor (Kashin Shetty). Directed by Akarsh Khurana and written by Siddharth Kumar, it takes an action-packed and wickedly humorous look at contemporary corporate culture in India. A nervous young man (Pandit) attends an interview at a major company, but nothing in his life so far has prepared him for the decidedly bizarre twists and turns the next hour takes. Based on Kumar's own experiences when he worked in the corporate world, this is a play that anyone who's ever been part of corporate India will be able to relate to.

The Travelling Circus

Mind Adventures Theatre Company (Sri Lanka)

August 19

This piece of devised theatre tackles issues of war, displacement and alienation through the prism of fantasy and allegory. Directed by Tracy Holsinger, the play is adapted from the short story ‘The Boy Who Spoke in Numbers' by MASii (Mike Masilamani). It tells the story of the people of the Small Village of Fat Hopes who find themselves in a camp for Ignored Defeated People following civil war. The fairytale narrative of ‘The Travelling Circus' is populated with whimsical characters such as the boy who speaks only through maths, talking animals and singing checkpoints, and is supported by an energetic, eclectic soundtrack that includes parodies and mash-ups or remixes of popular melodies – everything from Michael Jackson to Cabaret – making for a unique and engaging theatrical experience.

Success

Theatre MXT (USA)

August 20

What is the definition of success? What are its costs? ‘Success' explores these questions in the context of the cutthroat world of capitalism through the character of Rick Sterling, an American advertising executive whose company helped elect the President of the United States. The 80 minutes of the play unfolds in real-time, as Rick returns to his office from lunch, has three visitors and seven phone calls. ‘Success' first premiered in 1991, and has since been re-worked by playwright John Kishline and director Edward Morgan to reflect our contemporary globalised reality. The play, which now also features an Indian character, embarks on a tour of India this year. It is being staged at the Fest with the support of the U.S. Consulate, Chennai.

Read an article 'Success' takes the road to India on JS Online here.

The Blue Mug

The Company Theatre (Mumbai)

August 21

This play comes to the Fest after a successful run in the U.S., Europe and Singapore. Loosely based on the bestselling book ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat' by neurologist Oliver Sacks (a series of case histories of his patients), it explores personal narratives of memory, and their free-flowing form. Directed by Atul Kumar, ‘The Blue Mug' is anchored by the performances its star cast, with a strong emphasis on improvisation. Indeed, there is no single playwright for this piece of theatre; ‘The Blue Mug' is a devised performance, put together by the entire team.

The Fest: Now in five cities

The MetroPlus Theatre Fest was launched in 2005 in Chennai, and has grown to become a festival that showcases a diverse range of plays from all corners of the world. In the last six years, it has showcased plays from all major Indian cities. They have come from countries such as Germany, U.S.A, Korea, Singapore and Sri Lanka.

Over time, the Fest has travelled to other cities — first to Hyderabad and last year to Bangalore and Coimbatore. This year, we have added Kochi.

The success of the theatre festival encouraged us to institute The MetroPlus Playwright Award in 2008, which carries a prize of Rs. 1 lakh for the best playscript in English. The scripts that won the first three awards were spun out into a book – Three Plays, published by Penguin.

Sponsor Details:

Title Sponsor - Bose

Associate Sponsor - Hirco, Mahindra Holidays and Resorts Pvt Ltd,

Cultural Sponsor - Indian Council for Cultural Relations

Hospitality Sponsor - Taj Club House

Event Manager - EVAM

VENUE & TICKETS

The plays will be staged at Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Concert Hall at 7.30 p.m.

Tickets are priced at Rs. 500/300/200. Student passes Rs. 100. Season passes are available for Rs. 2600/ Rs. 1500. Limited number of reserved seats (seat number allotted) are available at Rs. 750 each. Call 90030-16954 to buy reserved tickets.

Online tickets for all shows can be purchased at The Hindu website and www.indianstage.in. Tickets for all shows also available at Landmark (Nungambakkam, Citi Center and Spencer Plaza), Bose Store (Ispahani Center and Ampa Skywalk Mall) and The Hindu Office, Anna Salai. Help Line Nos. 98841-57037 & 99404-38669.