The eighth edition of The Hindu MetroPlus Theatre Fest that commences on August 10 offers a mix of national and international theatre over seven days. A unique feature is a day dedicated to Chennai with four plays performed by four local groups
You can inhabit a different world. Live an unfamiliar life. Explore unknown lands. That is the lure of theatre. And this year’s MetroPlus Theatre Fest (MPTF) promises to take you on a rollicking Alladin-esque carpet ride through glittering landscapes and bustling cities, magic realism and contemporary angst, shuddering tragedy and comic irreverence. As always, this year’s instalment of MPTF offers a sampling of great national and international theatre. There’s also a unique Chennai link this year — a day dedicated to city theatre. Four plays by four local groups.
The Snow Queen, August 10
Trestle Theatre from the United Kingdom sets the stage with its boisterous adaptation of The Snow Queen, originally commissioned and produced by Unicorn Theatre. Danish author Hans Christian Andersen’s 1845 story, a chilling mystical fairy tale, is transformed by local playwright Anupama Chandrasekhar, into a rollicking ride through the heat, dust and colour of India. This is the India premiere of this retelling, which has been playing on the London stage. In it, Gerda becomes Gauri, and Kai becomes Kumar. Chandrasekhar draws upon Indian mythology, culture and topography to tell her story, which spans the country, from Kanyakumari to the snow-swathed mountains of Kashmir.
Bombay Talkies, August 11
Directed and scripted by Vikram Kapadia, this is a play about life in the Maximum City. Eight citizens of Mumbai pour their hearts out to the audience. They talk of pain and joy, memories and fear, hopes and desires. And, of course, they talk about love. Live their lives, and experience Mumbai with these monologues. After all, Mumbai seethes with stories. All kinds of stories. Twenty million people fighting through struggle and survival, disillusionment and distress, corruption and chaos.
Four Plays, August 12
Created and crafted in Chennai. This is the city showcase. (See below.)
Woyzeck, August 16
How do you rediscover tragedy? The true story of a poor German soldier driven to madness by brutal military discipline triggered George Buchner’s Woyzeck. Now discover it all over again in a stripped-down version from Korea, where objects and bodies combine to create a dynamic physical and visual language. Performed by Sadari Movement Laboratory (SML), this production was a sell-out at the 2007 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, after which it has been invited to tour the world. It’s a fresh interpretation of a familiar tale. It’s also surprising and deeply moving.
The Green Room, August 17
Aditya Sudarshan won the MetroPlus Playwright Award 2011 for this script. Performed by Yatrik from Delhi, The Green Room deals with the predicament of English-educated Indian artists in this country. Its story, set in the rarefied world of English theatre, explores their struggle to discover cultural legitimacy, the never-ending effort to reconcile big dreams with limiting circumstances. Dive into this knotty love triangle, featuring a dissatisfied actress, her perplexed manager-boyfriend and a stranger from the audience who understands her because he loves her.
Djinns of Eidgah, August 18
Abhishek Majumdar’s script talks of the lives and losses of the Kashmiri people. It speaks of the insanity of conflict through a story that spans three generations. And asks how the people deal with a situation that has been festering for decades, whether it’s by challenging guns with stones, or escaping into a fantasy world. Which is where the djinns come in. Majumdar won The Hindu MetroPlus Playwright Award in 2008 for Harlesden High Street. His next play, An Arrangement of Shoes, was shortlisted for the MetroPlus Playwright Award last year and won the Toto Funds the Arts Award. Experience his latest story, brought to life by a familiar and talented cast.
Baghdad Wedding, August 19
Travel between cosmopolitan London and war-ravaged Baghdad, following three friends who are torn between two worlds. This is a story of how they grapple with their cultural, political and sexual identities. And one wedding that goes horribly wrong. Winner of three Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards, including Best Play and Best Ensemble, this is London-based Iraqi molecular biologist Hassan Abdulrazzak’s first play. It opened at Soho Theatre in London in 2007, giving the world a chance to look at Iraq’s political crisis through the eyes of an Iraqi.
CHENNAI SPECIAL ON AUGUST 12
1) The Purification Hunt
Theatre Nisha presents a story inspired by Sudeep Chakravarti’s Red Sun: Travels in Naxalite Country. The story plunges into Chhattisgarh, exploring the state-sponsored Salwa Judum movement launched to counter Naxalism. And it goes on to demonstrate how, ultimately, it is always the ordinary people caught in the crossfire who suffer. Moved by the book, director V. Balakrishnan has brought the story alive on stage, reminding audiences of the might of official machinery and how helpless people are unless they toe the prescribed line.
2) Ganga at Rishikesh
Three stories in 25 minutes. But that’s not the main challenge. It’s the fact that this play by Stray Factory, written by local playwright Shreekumar Varma, simultaneously explores three stories that are as hypnotic as they are disparate. They’re all set in Rishikesh, a place where all kinds of people intersect and influence each other’s lives. One thing holds them together: The Ganga.
3) The Flatulist
Take a clear-sighted, unemotional, unbiased look at the entertainment industry with this play. Examine the middlemen and the relentless puppeteers who impenitently manipulate about the performers. It’s hard to be an artist. This play explores just how hard. It guides you through the sacrifices that are made, and the hardships suffered. A black comedy gem, The Flatulist is about the son of a once famous comedian, who confronts his father’s long-time agent, and pleads for a chance to demonstrate his admittedly bizarre ‘talent’.
4) A Temporary Matter
Some marriages die quietly. No drama or fireworks, just a steady, quiet decline. Shobha and Siddharth are going that way. They’re 30-something, married and settled into a life of numbing routine. She works. He’s pursuing his Ph.D. Six months ago, they lost their baby. Ever since, their relationship has been helplessly deteriorating. And neither of them seems to have the strength to revive it. Then the skeletons start tumbling out. Originally published in the New Yorker in 1998, this script is based on a story from Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies, which won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.