It is boom time for theatre in the city, with loads of new writing, as Sravasti Datta discovers

If new writing were to be plotted on the graph of Bangalore Theatre, one would see a steady increase of this trend. 2013 was the year of innovative and experimental theatre. Among the new plays, including devised pieces, staged were Abhishek Majumdar’s Gasha, Deepika Arwind’s Nobody Sleeps Alone, Prashanth Nair’s Romeo and Juliet—No Strings Attached, Swar Thounaojam’s Bogey Systems, Vinod Ravindran’s Somewhat like a Balloon and a play for children, Raja Tantra Choo Mantra, Swetanshu Bora’s Pagdi and Abhishek Iyengar’s Kannada play Magadi Days.

Nimi Ravindran, writer and theatre director, says there’s been a noticeable trend of writers directing their own works. “Close to a dozen plays have come out of Bangalore, and that’s a huge deal.”

Actor director Sharanya Ramprakash, says: “Playwrights are directing their own work.”

Productions staged from outside Bangalore

A number of quality productions from outside Bangalore were staged in Ranga Shankara , Jagriti Theatre and at theatre festivals. “The city is setting a mark in theatre in India,” says Sharanya.

Ranga Shankara’s annual theatre festival Samprati had theatre groups from different parts of India perform a “re-interpretation” of playwright Girish Karnad’s plays. The AHA! International Theatre Festival for Children this year saw the staging of national and international productions, including The Incredible Mullah Nasruddin, directed by Pushan Kriplani, and a play for toddlers Small Worlds, from Portugal.

Season Twenty Thirteen by Jagriti Theatre presented high-standard productions such as Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage, directed by Preetam Koilpillai; AllmyTea and ClustalZ production of Mike Bartlett’s Cock, Annie Zaidi’s So Many Socks, presented by Q Theatre Productions and Phil Porter’s Blink, among others.

The Hindu MetroPlus Theatre Festival last year staged productions such as Abhishek Majumdar’s The Djinns of Eidgah, directed by Richard Twyman, Tale of Haruk presented by Performance Group Tuida and Some Times by Akvarious Productions. Bangalore Little Theatre presented six new productions, including Finding Ananda: A tribute to Swami Vivekananda and Robots Unlimited: A Theatre-in-Education production with a student cast.

New initiatives

Nimi Ravindran and theatre actor Shiva Pathak started a performing arts collective Sandbox Collective, this year. Their project Spaces, to stage plays in alternative theatre had a good start. “We have already staged 15 shows in 45 days!” says Nimi.

Our Theatre’s crowd-funding campaign for Chanakya Vyas’s Prelude was another unique initiative. “We made a plan for five cities and managed to raise close to Rs. 1.6 lakh. Plays travel to other cities for broadly for two reasons: when it is part of a festival and because of sponsorships. We decided to do something different and found that our patrons came out in full support,” says Chanakya.

Increase in audience

Abhishek Iyengar says the audience for Kannada plays has increased. “People are more willing to watch plays over Kannada movies, because they can relate to what is being staged,” says Abhishek.

He says there has also been an exponential increase in the number of people taking up theatre full time. What he says is required is that production houses should market their plays more. “Unless we understand the importance of social media networking to reach out to people, we won’t be able to market theatre well.”

Looking Forward

Deepika Arwind says there will be more shows of Nobody Sleeps Alone this year. Abhishek Majumdar says Indian Ensemble’s production of Kaumudi will open this year. Abhishek Iyengar says they will be working closely with schools in using theatre as part of its curriculum. “In 2012, the Government made it mandatory that CBSE schools should include theatre in learning. We want to be involved with it.”