From its very inception, the driving force behind the Delhi Ibsen Festival has been twofold: the re-birth of Ibsen integrated into a new avatar, as championing the cause of the vibrant developing theatre movement in India on the one hand, and on the other, as an opportunity to experience the global revival of Ibsen as the new but transformed inspiration for theatre in Asian, African and European worlds.
To accomplish the first, it was necessary to dovetail Ibsen's writings as the source material into contemporary theatre work being done in India; and therefore it became essential to commission completely new work, to be produced by Indian directors, designers and other theatre artists. This I felt would have important repercussions in projecting a modern view of Indian theatre through the masterful writings of Ibsen, in a fast developing socio-economic Indian context, where it would inevitably find a new equation and meaning, in the thematic content of Ibsen's world propounding the release of the spirit from the shackles of oppression, in a new and emerging Indian democracy.
The revival of Ibsen in the 21st Century has been global, after his 100th death anniversary in 2006. New dimensions in the search for human identity have been the hallmark of exploration through Ibsen's liberating ideas on the human predicament in the changing dynamics of globalisation. Ibsen's absorption into the new way in which theatre is done and experienced today speaks volumes of the classic nature of his writings, being able to withstand the rigours in a radically changing new world.
For a writer whose influence changed the course of Indian theatre after the first quarter of the 20th Century, and brought realism into Indian theatre, it becomes ironic that Ibsen still remains a key driving force in a theatre that has now moved a long distance away from that realism; into a world that is de-constructed, fragmented and seen as a non-linear experience through a disjointed electronic Time-Space continuum.
Some of the most important international directors are negotiating with Ibsen's production in different cultures and cultural contexts. The Delhi Ibsen festival also opens a little window into a world beyond our own, by bringing international productions from a wide range of countries to India.
With the conclusion of The Delhi Ibsen festival 2010, audiences would have seen 11 international productions ranging from Egypt to Lithuania and Norway to China. The common feature of the festival is that almost all the productions are new and reflect a contemporary socio-cultural ethos.
The Delhi Ibsen Festival 2010 is unique in every way, because it embarks on a new journey, and encompasses an aspect of Ibsen's work and theme rarely discussed — ritual, tradition and folklore. In the Indian context, this is especially important, because it helps us to define our own point of contact with Ibsen. We have to see him not as a stranger in our midst, but bring him into our own environment, and into our minds, in a manner that he becomes familiar and endearing. Only then can we make the most of his work in its contribution to Indian theatre.
“The Mountain Bird” from Norway which opens the festival, is a ritual of a rare and meditative experience; the exuberance of Ila Arun's vibrant Rajasthani rendering of “Lady from the Sea”, and B. Jayashree's journey into a 14th Century form of the Veeraghasse experience of “The Master Builder”; Deepan Sivaraman's philosophical dialogues with God in “Peer Gynt”; Saulius Varnas' exploration of human emotion and identity in “When We Dead Awaken”; and finally, Lee Breuer's “Mabou Mines Dollhouse” in which he radically reverses roles, by making all the men in his production into ‘little people', brings a rare experience for a wide range of audiences in our celebrated city of Delhi, which is the undoubtedly, the ‘capital of Culture'.
(The author is Director, The Dramatic Art and Design Academy, which organises the festival along with the Royal Norwegian Embassy. The festival begins on November 30.)