Sweet are the fruits of labour, they say. Sweeter are the fruits of perseverance for Sri Venkateswara Natya Mandali, the 128-year-old Surabhi theatre group, which will leave the home turf on Thursday to enthral the audience shores afar in France.

Leaving the Lalitha Kala Thoranam premises where they have been staging shows for years, 43 artistes from the group will perform at Passages-2013, an international theatre festival to be held in the city of Metz from May 4 to 18.

The group will stage three plays ‘Maya Bazaar’, ‘Sri Krishna Leelalu’ and ‘Bhakta Prahlada’ for two weeks at the festival, and go on to repeat the first two at the Centquatre Cultural Centre in Paris, one of them to be watched by French Minister for Culture.

Surabhi’s will be the only troupe from India to perform at the festival, the others representing Ukraine, Russia, Norway, Czech Republic, Italy, Japan, Germany, Switzerland, France, Slovenia, Tunisia, and Israel. Incidentally, this is the first overseas performance by the group after many generations. For better understanding by the overseas audience, dialogues will be translated into French, and displayed as ‘over-titles’ on a screen above the stage, Jean Manuel Duhaut, the Director of the Alliance Française, which has organised the trip, informed at a press conference on Tuesday.

Mr. Duhaut said it was the French embassy in Delhi which spotted the Surabhi group in 2010 through a news report on its 125 years’ history. A group from Metz arrived to watch the troupe’s performance which they assessed as a perfect theatre form.

However, arranging for transportation of 43 persons along with the paraphernalia including sets, tents, backdrops, costumes, and jewellery was not an easy task. Sponsors had to be found for everything.

The Indian Council for Cultural Relations has undertaken to reimburse the expenses of 20 flight tickets, while Air India chipped in with the best prices for the whole group.

Andhra Nataka Kala Parishad has provided Rs. 5 lakh for the trip, and Raju Vegesna Foundation contributed Rs. 2 lakh to make the trip a reality, K.V. Ramanachary, the former cultural advisor to the State government informed. There are individual sponsors too. A container ship with all the paraphernalia has left for France a month-and-a-half ago, informed R. Nageswara Rao (Babji), chief of the Sri Venkateswara Natya Mandali.

“I am a fifth generation artiste, and our troupe has seventh generation too. We have roped in members from other groups too. I think this is the first time 43 artistes from the country will perform abroad for 35 days,” Mr. Rao said.

Mr. Duhaut’s wife and film maker Neeta Jain Duhaut is also filming a documentary about the Surabhi theatre tradition, to be telecast on a French television channel.

Around 43 artistes will perform at Passages-2013, an international theatre festival

to be held from

May 4 to 18