Home is where the theatre is

SEVERINE COURET loves to experiment. This 32-year-old theatre activist from France is preparing her all-Indian crew to present what she calls `Apartment Theatre'. "If you can't bring the people to the theatre, take the theatre to them," Severine explains the purpose of this novel concept.

The play, `Rehman and Jyothi', is based on Shakespeare's `Romeo and Juliet'. "But there is lot more to the play than being just another version of the classic," says Severine. "I have allowed the actors to improvise on the theme and, thus, interpret the play in their own way."

In `Apartment Theatre', actors perform in small, intimate spaces, often in private apartments and houses. The distance between the characters and the audience is erased. The viewers are made to mingle with the characters.

`Rehman and Jyothi' takes the audience into a Nair household; the family is struggling to come to terms with the painful reality of their daughter's relationship with a Muslim boy.

The house (in this case, it is the building that houses the Alliance Francaise office), where the play is performed, itself acts as the stage. The viewers are literally led into the lives of the characters and the situations they face. The interaction is achieved through participation.

In a way, `Apartment Theatre' can be called `feel good' theatre; it has nothing official about it! Moreover, it wisely sidelines the critic by ensuring his participation.

Severine Couret, who directs this play, has been a professional actress and theatre teacher since 1995. She has been in India for the past one year to study Kalarippayattu.

Students of Alliance Francaise -- Ram Mohan, Vibha Pant, Elvis Eldin, Rajesh Menon, Viren Rane and S. V -- form the cast and crew of `Rehman and Jyothi'. "It has been a new experience for me," says Ram Mohan, who plays the character of Scapin, acting as the "link between the stage and the viewer".

The play is aimed at breaking conventional methods of communicating with the viewer. Interactive theatre is not new to India, but `Apartment Theatre' is; it destroys the chains of inhibition that bind the actors and the viewers. But the question is: are we ready to shed our inhibitions?

The play has "a happy ending", and Scapin invites the audience to share the joy of the lovers, who "would live happily ever after".

"Come on, join the celebrations," Scapin urges the viewer. He turns back and informs the other characters, "Look, they are shy."

Don't be shy.

Join Rehman and Jyothi in their battle for love, at Alliance Francaise de Trivandrum at 7 p.m. on September 27 and 28.


Photo: S. Mahinsha

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