At Serendipity Arts Festival this year a few people will be treated to a unique concept of ‘Theatre at Home’. As a prelude to the festival two plays, ‘Criminal Tribes Act’ and ‘Adrak’ have performances in the intimate, private spaces of Goan homes across Goa, till Tuesday, October 23. NT BUZZ gets you the details
DANUSKA DA GAMA I NT BUZZ
“A real theatrical experience shakes the calm of the senses, liberates the compressed unconscious and drives towards a kind of potential revolt,” this quote by Antonin Artaud, a French dramatist still holds good today.
Two plays, Criminal Tribes Act and Adrak will use unconventional performance spaces, creating public interventions and pushing the theatre discipline beyond defined boundaries.
Speaking to NT BUZZ curator Atul Kumar who conceived the concept tells us that he chose plays that were diverse in form and content and at the same time the creators would be willing to play around with the challenge of an unconventional and more personal space. He says: “We actually have 5 different theatre productions proposed for Theatre at Home. Some are happening now, some later closer to date and some during the festival.”
Kumar who watched both the plays in alternative spaces in Mumbai, where the audience experienced the show in the most intimate setting with limited members says that for those precise reasons the experience for the audience became extremely personal and full of warmth and inclusion, “especially the discussions after the show between audiences and performers that threw up some very sensitive issues of relationships and human ties in Adrak and of cast, untouchability and privilege in Criminal Tribes Act.”
Both plays, he says are masterpieces, challenging general theatrical norms; the depth they reach in such short time make them valuable. And to experience them physically, so close to you makes it a unique experience that breaks a regular theatre experience of passive viewing in a large auditorium.
He notices that a lot of theatre makers today are working with varied forms and addressing the social, political and existential reality around them. This, he says has infused a wonderful fresh energy in the way theatre is now made and consumed. “It is also in this journey that experiments in form have become a norm and we are constantly surprised to see theatre merging with visual arts, cinema or dance and movement or simply architecture,” says Kumar.
About the play: Adrak re-defines the idea of ‘conversation’ and ‘conversations’ and dwells on their immediacy. The story of three characters Nischay, Vikrant and Anokhi, the play examines the hopelessness of the characters’ present and attempts to unravel the nostalgia of their shared past.
Written and directed by Niketan Sharma, he recalls that it was mid 2016, when he had no work, and wasn’t satisfied creatively and this drove him to writing the play. “So, I told Abhisek (co-writer) that I want to perform, let’s write and you direct and from there every single day and night we discussed,” he says before adding that the story had to be personal, something that he couldn’t part with and which bothered him and stopped him from moving forward in life. And thus with Sharma’s thoughts and inputs from Abhisek, they arrived at the plot for Adrak.
Sharma believes that plays and performances on relationships will never get outdated. “One thing about relationship is that it is endless, you can search in depth. It is the first thing you build whether in a personal space or professional one; it is universal,” he says before adding that while writing and directing this play, he enjoyed the politics of the characters, their behaviour with each other, how they behave in personal space, etc, and is also one of his favourite subjects. “I really enjoy the process of exploring relationships, and you can find it in every single play, but in this one, it is one of the key factors,” reveals the director who has used comic elements to keep the attention of the audience and this he says happened sub consciously as his life came out through his writing. And then while devising this plot of the play, humour came in automatically.
Sharma believes that today theatre is gaining popularity because the medium is powerful and can also be considered a fad, especially among the urban people. “I feel, it’s somewhere in between right now. From here it can go anywhere,” he says before adding that theatre has its own limits but it is getting stronger.
He believes people should take steps to make theatre more popular. “We have to target different kind of audiences; somewhere I felt there is a similar kind of audience in shows. These days, people are performing in different venues, intimate spaces and not only proscenium; this helps in getting more and more audience,” Sharma says.
Sharma, who graduated recently from National School of Drama, has over 90 per cent of his crew and cast who have just graduated, and credits all the members for their outstanding performances. However, when it comes to perception of the audience he says that generally people look out for big names and production houses while going for theatre performances. Those who are talented often have to struggle despite having a good script. “If actor has a name, people will go for that play no matter how the script, design is; they will go, compared to people who are new or haven’t achieved any name. But, it’s natural. People who have no name are struggling to get an audience, I think it’s a challenge to get in the audience for a show,” he concludes.
Criminal Tribes Act
About the play: Criminal Tribes Act is a play that examines the inherent conflicts between the speaker and the subject, the spoken and the unspoken, and India’s inherited modes of social exclusion. The play looks at the hierarchical classification of people based on caste and status within the Hindu Indian social structure which dictates that individuals belonging to certain castes are socially excluded, ostracised and alienated.
The director of the play, ‘Criminal Tribes Act’ Sankar Venkateswara tells NT BUZZ that working across cultures helps him to suspend notions and judgments regarding one’s own cultural make-up, allowing him to look beyond the facade of cultures and focus on aspects of human existence. About the source of inspiration for ‘Criminal Tribes Act’, he says: “CTA was a legislation enacted by the British in order to profile and label certain communities as criminals.
I came across the text and history of this legislation and was aware of the social exclusion and the subsequent human conditions imposed upon people by authoritarian social structures.” And that was the starting point.
Then, with his actors, he used theatre as a tool to get an overview and to develop their understanding on the subject, “and then we use those sensibilities of theatre to share some of the insights that we gathered through the process of our research and rehearsals,” Venkateswara says.
This piece for theatre has had several shows in India since January this year and he says that the act doesn’t give out a message or indulge in propaganda. “I think it is a bit old fashioned to deliver some message through theatre. In this age, social and other mass media are more effective to share messages than theatre. ‘Criminal Tribes Act’, the theatre piece, is a conversation between two actors and through this conversation we try to reflect on some of the contradictions of identities and inequalities that society thrusts upon our bodies,” he says.