11th edition of the International Theatre Festival of Kerala to holding the stage

A scene from Bitter Nectar

A scene from Bitter Nectar   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

ITFoK 2019, which kicks off on Sunday, promises to be a scintillating show

The curtains are set to rise again, as the 11th International Theatre Festival of Kerala (ITFoK 2019), the annual theatre fête organised by the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi (KSNA), begins this Sunday (January 20) at Thrissur.

This year’s edition is expected to be without the usual pomp and glitter, keeping in mind the devastating floods that ravaged the State last year. With a total of 13 plays, most of which are from Asian countries, the ITFoK 2019 will be a much pared-down affair. “The whole festival was on the verge of being scrapped. Luckily that didn’t happen,” says N Radhakrishnan Nair, secretary, KSNA.

The line-up includes plays from Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Malaysia, Iran and Italy, four Malayalam plays, and three plays from other states in India. The festival opens with Bitter Nectar (Thitha Kahatha), a Sri Lankan play by Janakaraliya, a popular theatre group in the island nation with its own ‘mobile tent theatre space’, which was brought all the way to Thrissur a couple of years ago for the ITFoK. However, Bitter Nectar will be staged on the proscenium at the ITFoK. Directed by Rasaiah Lohanadan, the play talks of little-known stories behind Sri Lanka’s tea industry.

The Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre is expected to be a crowd-puller. Water puppetry, a popular traditional folk performance form of Vietnam and a major tourist attraction, was originally devised by farmers to be performed in water-logged paddy fields in a country prone to floods. Water Puppet will be staged in a specially designed pool of water, set up by the group themselves. The troupe, known to be one of Vietnam’s most authentic water puppet theatre groups, is making their first visit to India.

Mostaghel Theatre, a well-known company from Iran that has been focussing on Shakespeare for years, will be bringing their production Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Mostafah Koushkiwas. The other Iranian play is The Well directed by Abbas Abolhasani for the Abolhasani Art Group. It talks of the tragic love and life of a couple who dedicated their lives for poetry, freedom and equality.

The PitaPat Theatre from Malaysia will perform its production of French dramatist Jean Genet’s play The Maids. The theatre group was formed in 2012 at Kota Kinabalu, the capital of the State of Sabah, by Seng Soo Ming, actor, director and theatre educator who studied at the Singapore-based Intercultural Theatre Institute (ITI). Italian actor, director and theatre person Anna Dora Dorno and actor Nicola Pianzola will stage The Ritual, which forms a part of their international performing arts project, The Rags of Memory, for the experimental theatre company, Instabili Vaganti. “The Ritual is the result of a process of reworking and updating elements of traditional performing arts from our culture and those of the countries where we have developed this project. It has been done through means from contemporary arts such as video projections, original music, physical and vocal scores of the performers,” says Anna Dora.

The play packs in “ancestral and symbolic elements” that build a universal language using body language and movements, she adds.

Dark Things, an innovative theatrical performance co-directed by Anuradha Kapur and Deepan Sivaraman for Performance Arts Collective of the Ambedkar University of Delhi, is the result of a vibrant international collaboration between an African poet, Indian and African musicians and Indian theatre persons. Based on a text for an Oratorio by South African writer Ari Sitas, the project emerged as a collaboration between Anuradha, Deepan and Sumangala Damodaran.

“It’s good for theatre and art in India that the Kerala Government has decided to hold ITFoK even after the economical setback due to the floods. I have learned that this year’s festival will be rather small due to the reduced budget, which is absolutely fine. I am happy that it’s still taking place and I am sure, in the coming year, we will have much more elaborate and solid programming and I am looking forward to it,” says Sivaraman. About Dark Things, he says, it is simply about “the dark times we live in.”

Renowned musicians Chandran Veyyattummal and Reza Khota from South Africa collaborate to create the production’s soundscape. The dramaturgy has been created by Purav Goswami, actor and a graduate student of the Performance Studies Programme.

Karuppu, a dance-drama revolving around the idea of Purusha and Prakriti energies by the Pondicherry-based Indianostrum Theatre, is directed by French-Indian director Koumarane Valavane. Ajay Khatri, an alumnus of the National School of Drama, New Delhi, is bringing his production of the British playwright James Graham’s work Privacy, which was inspired by the Edward Snowden revelations about government surveillance. Khatri’s group, Actors Studio, was founded in 2016.

The four Malayalam plays to be staged include Ali – Beyond the Ring, written by Madan Babu K and directed by Joy P P for CART, Ernakulam; Higuita: A Goalie’s Anxiety at Penalty Kick, a theatrical adaptation of N S Madhavan’s famous short story Higuita, by Sasidharan Naduvil for Remembrance Theatre Group; Shakuntalam by Chandradasan for Lokadharmi and Nona, a multiple Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META) winner written and directed by Jino Joseph for Black Theatre, Kozhikode.

Chandradasan expresses his satisfaction at the determination of the organisers in keeping the festival spirit going.

“It’s a good selection, both in the international and the national levels. The national plays are enough to give a representation of Indian theatre at an international festival. KSNA’s decision to conduct the festival in the face of adverse situations deserves applause. It was important to ensure that the continuity of the festival was not broken,” Chandradasan says.

The festival, this time, features only two non-theatre events — a Grand Saxophone Concert on the opening day and a Sufi qawwali on the concluding day. Five seminars are also being held as part of the fête, out of which two are discussions on Malayalam theatre.

The seminars are on ‘Spoken Word, Actor and Scenography in the Modern Indian Theatre Practice,’ ‘Women’s Theatre in Malayalam,’ ‘Playwright and the Changing Idioms of Indian Theatre,’ ‘Art and Contemporary Indian Reality’ and ‘Political Theatre in Malayalam.’ The seminars are being conducted by the Kerala Sahithya Akademi as its contribution towards the ITFoK. As in previous years, the ambience work will be provided by Kerala Lalithakala Akademi. “The plan is to have Kerala-themed murals by established artists on the walls of the Black Box,” said Radhakrishnan.

The KSNA has maintained that budget constraints will not affect the prestigious Ammannur Puraskaram, to be bestowed upon Karnataka-based theatre person Prasanna.

Now, the stage is set.

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2020 9:31:46 AM |

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