Theatre of resilience in Thrissur


Despite the setbacks caused by the recent deluge, the 11th edition of the International Theatre Festival of Kerala puts its best foot forward with 13 plays from six Asian countries, all dealing with a wide range of concerns.

It may not have the usual extravaganza or a large line-up from across the globe. But, the 11th edition of the International Theatre Festival of Kerala (ITFoK), organised by the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi, will kick-start here on Sunday with the choicest collection of plays.

This year, the ITFoK has 13 plays from six countries, all dealing with a wide range of concerns. As the festival directorate — Arundhati Nag, M.K. Raina and Kumara Varma — puts it: “Cutting across nations, these performances become a shared experience of humanity in present times.”

‘‘We decided to conduct the 11th edition in spite of the recent devastating floods as a mark of our strength and unity,’’ said KPAC Lalitha, chairperson, Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi.

The plays, which will build a carnivalesque spirit for a week starting Sunday, are from neighbouring Asian countries such as Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Iran, and one from Italy. There are seven national productions, including four Malayalam plays.

It is an achievement that this year’s festival is still on, even amidst the post-flood rough weather in the State, said N. Radhakrishnan Nair, secretary, Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi.

“It was a conscious decision to not cancel this edition in spite of constraints. As Kerala slowly recovers from the disaster, it is only apt that we rise above the tragedy and put a sure foot forward and respond to the world. We were forced to adopt all possible belt-tightening measures to minimise expenses. This made the selection process quite tough and challenging. So we have invited theatre groups mostly from Asian countries,” said Mr. Nair.

No theme

This is the first time that the ITFoK is being held without a theme. When the ITFoK started in 2008 under the leadership of former Akademi chairman the late cine actor Murali, the global stature that the festival enjoys today was a dream. But over a period, it became one of the country’s most important theatre festivals. Our dream is to make the ITFoK a month-long experience, to turn the cultural capital to a city of theatre, said the secretary.

Contemporary trends

The festival gives us an opportunity to see contemporary trends in development of theatre and show the best works of Indian and world theatre gurus and introduce new names to the Kerala audience. It gives artistes a chance to hone their craft, by realising their shows in three dimension before a live and responsive audience — and it delivers greater production value and promotional reach than its participants can otherwise afford.


By consistently attracting participation of well-known actors, directors and other established members of the theatre industry, the festival has created an environment rich with mentorship opportunities for newer artistes, and made the festival a leading spot for the discovery of talented new performers, directors, choreographers, designers, and producers — as well as writers.

“Though we can watch the major plays on Internet, the international festival gives an opportunity to watch it live. And being a live art performance, the festival is really a workshop for people like us,” says Academy award-winning playwright Riyas Muhhamad.

Diverse themes

“This time, the plays are of diverse themes, from post-war issues to major issues that confront mankind in contemporary times,” said Kumara Varma, one of the festival directors.

Theatre of resilience in Thrissur

The festival also has three seminars and two debate sessions. ‘Art and Contemporary Indian Reality: The Quest for a Second Indian Renaissance,’ ‘Playwright and the Changing Idioms of Indian Theatre’ and ‘Spoken Word, Actor and Scenography in Modern Indian Theatre Practice’ are the topics for the seminar.

Reputed playwrights, artistes, directors and social activists from all over the country have been invited to participate in the colloquium.

Water Puppet, a folk entertainment by Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre in Vietnam, and Midsummer Night’s Dream by Mostaghel Theatre, Iran, are the most awaited plays.

Water Puppet theatre

Village festivals, usually held to mark either the end or beginning of the agricultural cycle, are the means by which peasants express their hopes for more abundant crops. Each village festival features traditional folk entertainment, which reflects ancient religious beliefs and customs. Village ponds constitute a vital factor in the ecology of the plains of North Vietnam. People dig these ponds to obtain earth with which they raise the level of the floors of their houses against heavy rain and flooding. The original water puppetry was literally held by farmers in waterlogged paddy fields, with a pagoda built on top to hide the puppeteers who stand in waist-deep water. Modern water puppetry is performed in a pool of water with the water surface being the stage. A traditional Vietnamese orchestra provides background music accompaniment. The Thang Long Puppetry Theatre has done more than 500 shows. It has conducted tours to more than 50 countries.

Theatre of resilience in Thrissur

Midsummer Nights’ Dream is brought to the festival by Mostaghel Theatre from Iran, which is famous for its performances of Shakespearian plays. Four Athenian young in love persons have some troubles to reach their love, due to the Rules of Athens, so they run away to the jungle, there they have problems with elves, and by their magic, they first lose their love and then find their love again.

As Jan Kott, the Polish playwright and interpreter, says Shakespeare should be alive in our time and his playwrights should be related to our today life. “I as a director was looking for relationship between Shakespeare and today’s society, in content of performance.”

Mostaghel Theatre is a theatre company in Iran over two years, and has more than 10 productions such as Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet and Romoliete by Shakespeare.The group has been in the Shakespeare Gdansk Festival in 2018 with Midsummer Night’s Dream. It has been performed 163 nights in Mostaghel Theater hall.

Midsummer Night’s Dream will give an exciting experience to our viewers with the experience of a stage within a stage,” said Sreejth Ramanan , Technical Director of the ITFok.

Bitter Nectar, a production by Janakaraliya of Sri Lanka, is the opening show. It talks about the status of a community that was taken to Sri Lanka by foreigners 190 years ago from India.

Bitter Nectar is the story about the struggles of the hands that strive to plant tea bushes, pluck the buds from the tree. The beautiful range of tea bushes spread among the valleys and peaks of hill country whisper the untold story of 10 generations of labourers working under trying conditions for over one-and-a-half centuries. Even today, these people are homeless, Stateless and live without any appreciable rights.

The Well (Iran); The Maids (Malaysia); and The Ritual (Italy) are the other foreign plays.

Dark Things co-directed by Deepan Sivaraman and Anuradha Kapur; Karuppa, a dance drama by Puducherry-based Indianostrum Theatre; Privacy directed by Ajay Khatri, an alumnus of the National School of Drama, New Delhi; are the productions from other States.

The Malayalam plays include Ali Beyond the Ring, directed by P.P. Joy; Higuita, The Goalie’s Anxiety at Penalty Kick, directed by Sasidharan Naduvil; Shakunthalam - The Tale of the Hunt by Chandradasan; and Nona by Jino Joseph.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 3:40:04 PM |

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