The Chennai chapter of the The Hindu MetroPlus Theatre Fest promises everything from irreverence and giggles to pathos and the lofty
Date: August 12
Venue: Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Concert Hall, Chetpet
Plunge into Chhattisgarh and explore the stories of people caught in a political crossfire. Explore Rishikesh, and find out what it is about the Ganga that has hypnotised people for centuries. Take an unflinching, unbiased look at the entertainment industry. Watch a marriage struggle to stay alive, amid power cuts and candles. This is the Chennai chapter of the festival. Local actors, directors and playwrights. All coming together to create a show that might canter through different geographies, but is clearly inspired by this city.
CONFESSIONS IN CANDLELIGHT
A Temporary Matter
Performed by: The Madras Players
Playwright: Nikhila Kesavan
Director: Krishna Kumar S.
Nikhila Kesavan: “A Temporary Matter was my first attempt at creating an original stage adaptation… I found this short story very moving and rich with dramatic potential. Everything in this story is so understated — that’s the challenge of bringing it alive on stage. Pregnant silences of a strained relationship interspersed with confessions in candlelight, this story is a wonderful exploration of the subtext in a relationship / marriage.
Krishna Kumar S
Why pick this story?
There was no picking the story. I think the script picked me. Nikhila picked me... The Madras Players picked me!
What are the challenges of working with a short story that’s been re-moulded into a script?
It is a very, warm and poetic story. I prefer scripts that have a lot of grey than comedies or easier stuff. The main challenge has been to keep the action to the stipulated 25 minutes or under. It is a very languid but poetic and seamless story with a lot of soul. I find it refreshing to bring stories written in a different narrative form to stage, because you have the opportunities and options to delve into media. It is not tailor-made with dialogues and cut-out characters. Actors and directors (artistic, technical as well as others) all have to come together to evolve the play. Performance is not all. Performance of a short-story remoulded into a script on stage is only the end-realisation of the whole process. It is more gratifying than a tailor-made production.
THE VOICE OF FREEDOM
The Purification Hunt
Performed by: Theatre Nisha
Playwright and Director: V. Balakrishnan
Sudeep Chakravarti’s Red Sun: Travels In Naxalite Country inspired this play. Why did you choose to tell this particular story?
I had 25 minutes to tell a story theatrically, so the time dimension curtailed many other scripts, plays and stories I have been mulling over. I was reading Red Sun at the same time and being kicked in my guts about my complacency and utter blindness to the police state, which is the real scenario of India. Realising I don’t have the gumption to stand up to the police or speak the truth or pick up the gun, I decided to hide under the fabric of theatre. And add my feeble voice to the second war of independence through a simple script.
Since you are the scriptwriter and director, did you leave portions open-ended, so the story stayed fluid, changing with each rehearsal?
I did not approach rehearsal until I had a complete script. My co-actors Sam and Varun helped me with it. Thanks to Sudeep’s magnanimity, the content of the script was not worrying, it was the intent with which it was to be rendered that we kept changing and experimenting with.
RAW AND IRREVERENT
Performed by: Boardwalkers
Playwright: Murray Schisgal
Director: Michael Muthu
Boardwalkers is best known for irreverent comedies. The Flatulist certainly fits that description. Why choose this particular play?
It’s a beautiful play. Apart from being irreverent, it’s full of life, raw emotions, truth and pain.
You have supported and mentored young performers in Chennai for years. Theatre can be both unforgiving and unprofitable. What keeps you going?
Don’t know. Gotta do what one’s gotta do.
A DIP FOR NEW LIFE
Ganga at Rishikesh
Performed by: Stray Factory
Playwright: Shreekumar Varma
Directors: Mathivanan Rajendran and Venkatesh Harinathan
Shreekumar Varma: “We travelled to the Himalayas some time ago, and the gateway appeared to be Rishikesh. There’s nothing like the sight and sound of the Ganga. Taking a dip in it is like surfacing to a new life. But, human nature being what it is, you also find this strange mix of the lofty and the crafty, the divine and the ridiculous. The play is an attempt to catch this mix. Half the play is a result of real incidents. The other half was waiting to happen. I have almost forgotten which half is which.
Mathivanan Rajendran and Venkatesh Harinathan
Stray Factory has always believed in entertainment collaboratives. You have two directors and a local playwright working together for this play. Why choose this route instead of a more traditional single-director production?
It boils down to working style, really. I guess we prefer a devised performance rather than a directed piece. We believe that it offers more options to experiment. Also, we’ve been breaking performances into physical and text, having two directors allows us to concentrate on these specific aspects. Having Shreekumar Varma as the playwright opens up the possibilities of sharing and bouncing off ideas with one another, which normally might not be possible with a script. We believe strongly in working with local writers and hope to make it a practice.
Three stories in 25 minutes. Is it a challenge to tell them all, and tell them well?
Definitely. But therein lies the challenge! We’re comfortable with the short play format and have taken it as an opportunity to improve the scripts brevity and impact. The format ensures we don’t get carried away with our interpretation and instils a sense of discipline.