Theatre The National Theatre Festival of Kerala, held in Kannur, was an opportunity for theatre aficionados to immerse themselves in the art of contemporary theatre in India. Shabana Mansoor
The week-long National Theatre Festival of Kerala in Kannur, organised by the Department of Information and Public Relations, succeeded in bringing lovers of art, especially theatre enthusiasts, back into the fold of theatre, with plays that had fresh narratives, and select themes that triggered hour-long debates and introspective moments too. Plays in Malayalam and also those in various regional languages were well-appreciated by the audience.
Of the 20 plays, six were from Mumbai, New Delhi, Manipur, Jammu and Kashmir and Bihar, respectively, and the others were staged by theatre groups in the State.
Following the staging of each play, the next day, the nuances of the themes and the presentation were discussed with the makers, which threw light on the novel approaches in theatre adopted by contemporary directors. Most of them were of the opinion that shedding monotonous themes was one way to win the attention of theatre lovers and resuscitate theatre in Kerala.
The theatrical presentation of M.T. Vasudevan Nair’s ‘Parinayam’, directed by Soorya Krishnamoorthy, staged on the first day of the festival, did justice to the story with its exemplary props and a reasonable presentation. ‘Mythical Surrender’ from Manipur, directed by Ningthouja Deepak, provided a sneak peek into the turbulent political situation in the State, which is caught between the establishment and the militants. Symbolic theatrical gestures prevailed over the linguistic barrier of the play.
In-depth discussions were held on women-oriented themes of ‘Patni ka Patra’, scripted by Tagore and directed by Geetha Guha, and ‘Etho Chirakadiyochakal’, scripted by G. Sankara Pillai and directed by Sam George. These solo performances portrayed the agonies and apprehensions of women through separate perspectives of a mythological character and a modern-day woman. ‘Samjhotha’ from Bihar and ‘Krapp’s Last Tape’ from New Delhi were also solo performances. While the former, directed by Pavankumar Gunjan, succeeded in relating to the audience, through its imagery, the monologue of a 69-year-old listening to the recording of his previous birthdays, the latter play, scripted by Samuel Beckett and directed by Danish Hussain, failed to connect with the viewers, predominantly on account of the linguistic barrier.
Young director Abhimanyu Vinaykumar’s, ‘Yamadhooth – After The Death Of Othello’, with its well-thought-out screenplay, an innovative approach to the Shakespearean play, was appreciated and debated upon by the audience. ‘After the Silence’ by Martin John C. tackled questions of life, death, self, dreams, reality and the eternal with élan, crafting an easy rapport with the audience. Vayala Vasudevan Pillai’s ‘Andubali’ and ‘Akatharo’ were also part of the festival. While a flawed synchronisation of music and action failed to impress the audience in the former, the latter was accepted for its anti-invasion theme and simple set. The staging of the Malayalam adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s ‘Galileo’ by the Kerala Shastra Sahitya Parishath and ‘Do Kodi Ka Khel’ by the Amateur Theatre Group from Jammu and Kashmir drew varied responses from the theatre goers. Based on Brecht’s ‘Three Penny Opera’, the Kashmiri troupe, a bunch of youngsters, staged a comical representation of a serious theme. The play was directed by Ifra Kak, the youngest female theatre director from that State.
A few films on theatre from around the world were also screened as part of the fete. Arna’s Children , a Palestinian-Israeli documentary feature, Snow White by Angelin Prelijocaj, and Theatre of War , directed by John Walter, were among the works screened.