In its fifth year, the International Theatre Festival of Kerala seeks to extend the interaction between diverse artistic processes in its search for quality theatre.
A yen for quality experimental theatre was one of the most striking features of the International Theatre Festival of Kerala (ITFOK) when it burst upon the scene in Thrissur in 2008. In subsequent years, it set new standards for theatre festivals in India.
Organised by the Kerala Sangeeth Natak Akademi, in its fifth edition this year, the festival seeks to build on its strengths. With Europe as its theme, ITFOK 2013 will present a total of 35 plays (20 Indian and 15 foreign) over eight intense days. Contemporary theatre from Poland, Romania, France, Italy, Catalonia, Uzbekistan, Slovenia and the U.K. among others makes up the European section.
There are a few well-known names. From Turkmenistan Ovlyakuli Khodjakul’s one-man theatre group Awara will present King Lear with a minimum of props and in the Turkmen language. The Footsbarn Theatre from rural France will present Indian Tempest, created in collaboration with artistes from Kerala.
In general though, the theatre groups and directors from Europe represent the work of young, independent workers under 40 years who travel constantly with their works and who will provide an idea of contemporary theatre practice
Also included are Indian plays in Hindi, Assamese, Marathi and English. The festival will also provide a platform for folk and traditional theatre thereby setting up a two-way cultural exchange.
The vision for ITFOK respects the potential of quality theatre and is particularly mindful of its cultural and political context. Its programming attempts to extend the interactive possibilities between different kinds of theatre in an atmosphere that understands diverse artistic processes while also reducing the precious insularity of self-consciously “new” and “innovative” work.
From its inception, the festival was well served by the combination of an imaginative cultural administrator and a sensitive festival director working in tandem. Aided by the formal and informal theatre community networks in Kerala and elsewhere, this structure has given ITFOK a distinct identity.
Festival director Surya Krishnamoorthy points out that this year a new section on short plays has been introduced.
The festival offers a packed schedule, beginning with workshops for aspiring theatrepersons in Kerala at 7.00 a.m. followed by conversations with the directors of plays shown the previous day, among other seminars and exposition sessions and film screenings followed by four performances each day.
Plays from Kerala’s professional theatres as well as the traditional forms of Mudiyettu and Yakshaganam have also been included. Among the other international plays are Fellini’s Dream directed by Pino Di Buduo for Teatro Potlach from Italy. This describes a theatrical journey through the world of Federico Fellini’s films and encounters with its magical, surreal characters.
Teatr Biuro Podrozy from Poland presents Macbeth: Who is that Bloodied Man?, directed by Paweł Szkotak, a production that seeks to go against the conventions of traditional repertoire theatre to create new modes of expression.
Hidden in Plain Sight, written designed and directed by Mallika Prasad and Ram Ganesh Kamatham, will be performed by Mallika Prasad. The piece takes a look at the lives of four women to create fractured narratives that draw from the paintings of Degas and British playwright Sarah Kane.
After the Silence, presented by Sadhana Centre for Creative Practice in Malayalam and English, is based on a story by Chilean writer Elias Cohen. Directed by Thrissur-based Martin C. John who has lived in Chile, it will be performed by Indian and Chilean actors. “This is a compact play, unpacked and assembled in front of the audience, in an attempt to diffuse the barriers between performers and audience, the play and the people,” says John.
Sunil Shanbag’s always topical Sex Morality and Censorship, Mohit Takalkar’s Marathi play Gajab Kahani based on Jose Saramago’s novel The Elephant’s Journey as well as Pabitra Rabha’s Assamese play Kin Kao, which examines the status of the disabled, are the other Indian plays.
International Theatre Festival of Kerala
When: January 15-23
Where: Academy Hall, Thrissur