The Footsbarn Travelling Theatre, in association with Abhinaya, is presenting ‘Indian Tempest’ in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday.
A cultural alliance forged close to two decades ago has led to the production of plays that are largely adaptations of Shakespeare’s classics, but strongly flavoured by the traditional theatre forms of Kerala. The Footsbarn Travelling Theatre, based in France, has long collaborated with the Abhinaya Theatre Research Group in Thiruvananthapuram, and their latest production, ‘Indian Tempest’, will be staged at the Government College for Women in the capital on Friday.
Speaking to The Hindu, members of the nomadic group spoke of the special connection they felt with Kerala and the enriching, albeit exhausting, process of touring the globe non-stop.
Director Paddy Hayter has been associated with the group for over 40 years now but the enthusiasm of coming back to a city, which has even been chosen as the finale venue of some of their lead productions, masks the strain of extensive travel and sleepless nights.
A few members of the group arrived in the city on Wednesday morning after performing at the International Theatre Festival of Kerala in Thrissur. Their Indian tour phase has so far touched New Delhi and Jaipur. A year ago, the ‘Indian Tempest’ started to take shape at Thiruvananthapuram, with the help of D. Raghuthaman, head of Abhinaya.
“We started in Cornwall, England, during the 1970s and then no real theatre buildings existed. We started off performing at village halls, markets, anywhere where people gathered,” said Mr. Hayter.
The Kerala link was formed in 1994, when they performed ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Five artistes from Kerala were chosen at the time, after which the troupe returned to perform ‘La Odyssey’ in 1999 and then in 2005 for ‘Perchance to Dream’.
“We never need to audition or look for performers and they always come to us, no matter where we are performing,” said the director, stressing that a process of ‘osmosis’ takes place whereby the theatre group’s style refrained from directly taking elements of Kerala’s theatre but improvised to blend diverse traditions.
“Back in 1994, we used to go and watch Koodiyattam and Kathakali performances every week and you cannot deny the power in each of those performances. For me, as an actor, it is fascinating,” said Mr. Hayter.
Later this year, the group plans to set up an annual music and arts festival at their base, La Chaussée, France.