A factory of talented theatre geeks


Stray Factory, a Chennai-based group, makes an impressive debut

: When a theatre group that goes by the name Stray Factory rolls out plays called ‘Kakka Sutta Vadai’ and ‘Osama, Cinema and a Whole Lot of Black Money’, wackiness is sometimes both the promise and the premise of what ensues.

Stray Factory, a Chennai-based group of theatre geeks, made an impressive debut in the city during the Theatre Festival 2014 hosted by the Tourism Department though some members of the troupe had put up a sideshow to an event in Auroville some time ago.

‘Kakka Sutta Vadai’ is a re-tweaking in English of the Tamil fable, where the group fuses “folk aesthetics with a lot of

movements that we’ve been experimenting with”, says Mathivanan Rajendran aka Mathi of Stray Factory.

“While the play is essentially a retelling of the fable, we have also thrown in elements of political motive and existential thoughts,” says Rajiv Rajaram, another core member of the group which was founded in 2010.

The artists agree that it is even more exciting, and at the same time challenging, to stage the stripped-down version of the play for children, given the extremely fleeting attention spans of the young.

‘Osama, Cinema and a Whole lot of Black Money’ featured the best of Stray Factory’s award-winning short plays which have been performed across the globe, including at venues in Sydney, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Dubai.

But, it is not always the same composition of short plays. Here, the performance featured seven short plays.

For the festival, Stray Factory was ranged alongside Crazy Mohan and Maadhu Balaji and S. Ve. Shekher from Chennai and the home-grown group Indianostrum.

The company was inspired by a workshop hosted in Auroville by experimental theatre pioneer Adishakti, says Mathi, who recalls returning home after listening to the late Veenapani Chawla with his mind buzzing with ideas.

It wasn’t long after that a group of like-minded friends and theatre enthusiasts got together to float Stray Factory. One of their earliest productions was ‘The Lost Audition’, about a Hollywood aspirant signed to play Osama in a movie left in the lurch when the contract is annulled after the terror mastermind is killed, though there is higher recall value for another of their much-awarded play from those days, ‘My name is cine-maa’, a theatrical tribute to the centenary of Indian cinema.

This is a group that likes to keep evolving and opening itself up to newer possibilities of stagecraft, or as they say, “balancing form and content”.

“These are challenging times for theatre and we need to keep adapting to change as every medium changes in respect to others,” says Mathi.

Apart from countering the challenge from 24 by 7 television and access to affordable performing spaces, theatre artists also need to devise better ways to make the narrative compelling and relevant.

Perhaps, to counterbalance the threat of television, excite youth and also to synergise theatre with the digital medium, Stray Factory is increasingly looking at ways to leverage the Internet.

One of the results of this exploration has been an online channel that has already delivered at least two viral videos on YouTube under the bar room comedy banner ‘Enna da Rascalas’.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 7:53:50 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/a-factory-of-talented-theatre-geeks/article6693342.ece

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