‘Form and content shape each other’: On the evolving nature of theatre

Founder of Oxygen Theatre Company, Deepan Sivaraman, was in conversation with Anuradha Kapur, former director of the National School of Drama, on day 2 of The Hindu Lit for Life festival, on Saturday

November 13, 2021 04:51 pm | Updated 04:54 pm IST - CHENNAI

Avant-garde theatre director Deepan Sivaraman.

Avant-garde theatre director Deepan Sivaraman.

“Sensorial theatre needs a different kind of spectatorial intervention and positioning. You cannot have a complete sensorial experience if you sit in only one place and watch throughout,” said Deepan Sivaraman, director, scenographer and founder of Oxygen Theatre Company. “The fundamental question we have to ask is: are they (spectators) coming to get entertained, enlightened or are they there to peep into the private show that is being offered? Are they there to observe or participate?” he asked.

Mr. Sivaraman was in conversation with Anuradha Kapur, founder member of Vivadi, and former director of the National School of Drama, on ‘Sense Smell Touch: Collaboration in Theatre Making’ on Day 2 at The Hindu Lit For Life 2021, held on Saturday.

Explaining his point further, Mr. Sivaraman spoke about how the performance site of Ubu Roi , a play based on Alfred Jarry’s work, was conceptualised as a ‘jail’ or a concentration camp. “Because Ubu is a fascist. And he brings his system of functioning, and the audience is forced to sit and watch the performance whether they like it or not. That brings us to the question: why are the spectators there? They are there to witness the mad regime of Ubu but they cannot go out,” he said.

Anuradha Kapur

Anuradha Kapur


Ms. Kapur spoke about how, in her collaboration with Mr. Sivaraman on Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde , the image comes to the spectator instead of the image playing out in front of the spectator like in conventional theatre. “The truck appears as a box and when it is lit inside, you can see people. You are standing, and a truck appears and lands in front of you. You have the scenography in which the image comes to you but in conventional theatre, the image plays out in front of you. You can have it on wheels, or the image can come in on a truck and park [in front of you). Each of the experiences is different. Three of four kinds of images: truck comes in front, locked room, one was in a small dark room and one was in a garden. Spectator is central to the image –how do you see it, where are you, who you are, and why are you there?” she said.

She added that the form and content are not separate containers, but are shaped by each other. “The form and content shape each other and they are not separate containers. They are interwoven. We want to see theatre not as a pyramid but as grass – linked and multi-authored,” she said.

The Hindu Lit for Life is organised in association with Rajasthan Tourism; Realty partner: Casagrand; Banking partner: State Bank of India; Insurance partner: Life Insurance Corporation of India. Hindustan Institute of Technology & Science is the knowledge partner and Higginbothams is the bookstore partner.

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