Chennai-based theatre group Stray Factory is all set to perform at two international festivals with plays that showcase the real India
Mathivannan Rajendran is a little hesitant. “I’ve never done 50 minutes before,” he says, as he pours himself a cup of green tea. “I mean, I’ve done 30 minutes but not 50.” Fifty minutes of what? “Monologue,” he explains. Stray Factory, a city-based theatre group, is looking forward to two big projects in the coming months — they will be performing at the Hollywood Fringe Festival in Los Angeles and the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, South Africa. “We are the only Indian group to perform there too,” adds Mathi.
When the opportunity to create a play for the Hollywood Fringe Festival came up, Mathi decided it was time to go west. But what kind of Indian play would work in that context? “After all the hype about Slumdog Millionaire and Life of Pi, we realised that there is a side to India most people there never see,” he says. Hence, The Abridged History of Modern Day India, a 50-minute interactive play that “will educate the uneducated about India.”
The play, initially planned as a monologue, was later modified to include one more person. “The two actors, Naren Weiss and Mohit Gautam will traverse every era that India has gone through and draw parallels to our roots. It’s about the creation of pop culture. They will talk about what is important to us and why. The play is essentially about post-colonial India and looking past stereotypes,” explains Mathi. The show will be staged from June 12 to June 22.
For the National Arts Festival in South Africa, an old play that had won much praise came to their rescue. “The Lost Audition is a 10-minute play written by Rajiv Rajaram which we have now worked on to stretch it to 50 minutes. It’s a monologue that we have renamed Who is your Osama? It will discuss the question of personal villains,” he says.
Being a part of the festival is not just about performing on stage. “Grahamstown is a university town but during this festival, people from all over Africa drive up to watch. It’s multi-cultural and so it seemed like a place that would like the work we do. It’s also perfect to meet new people and soak in their culture,” says Mathi. “These fringe shows broaden our perspective. And these are investments, in a way. Once the shows are performed here, we can perform them anywhere.”
Who is your Osama? will be staged between July 6 and July 14.
Apart from this, the group is working for the Short and Sweet Festival, new productions and is hoping to be more active on social media. “We are looking at podcasts and video sketches. I think the online medium has much to offer and we haven’t tapped it effectively. Of course, on the other hand, some of us in the group are busy with a few films as well,” says Mathi.