Telling me softly
The First City Theatre attempts to create a “new theatre culture” with play readings.
It’s not challenging in physical terms. But we get to explore new texts and characters.
PHOTO: Sandeep Saxena
From the page The First City Theatre brings frequent theatre readings to the city’s cultural calendar.
A play reading is storytelling at its best. Simply through dialogue and delivery, the audience is transported to a different time and locale. The First City Theatre recently held its eleventh theatre reading at The Attic. Their prolificacy has helped them carve a niche for theatre readings in the Capital. Neel Chaudhuri, Momo Ghosh, Kriti Pant and others have tickled the audience with Woody Allen, entertained with Shakespeare and impressed with Alexei Arbuzov. Being a tiny space, The Attic lends itself perfectly to pared down play readings. With minimum distance between actors and the audience, the necessary intimacy for storytelling remains intact.
Neel Chaudhuri the artistic director of The First City Theatre says that these readings under the umbrella of ‘Off the Mantle’ achieve various goals. They bring back the mould of storytelling and that of rapt listening. They keep the actors on their toes. Chaudhuri says, “It’s not challenging in physical terms. But in terms of exploring the text and character, that’s what we look forward to.” Now writing and performing original scripts, Chaudhuri also finds the readings a “huge learning experience”, as it necessitates the discovery of new texts. It helps to fill up the calendar with theatre activity, as productions cannot be frequently pulled off.
Staging theatre readings every few weeks also keeps a new theatre group in the limelight. Chaudhuri elaborates, “It’s useful publicity. Delhi theatre is feudal, it’s very difficult for a new group to break in.” “Dissatisfied” with the stagnation they see around them, this is their way of creating a “new theatre culture”.
They might have a full house at The Attic but that’s because it can’t accommodate more than 40-odd people. But they are optimistic that even if their audience is not multiplying, it remains faithful. The same people come back, thereby generating an atmosphere of dialogue and debate.
An end in itself
Usually, play readings are a method to whet a new play with the audience. It’s the original testing ground for new scripts. But The First City Theatre uses it largely as an end in itself. The warm response after the reading of Alexei Arbuzov’s “The Promise” has made them realise the potential of the play. And they are seriously considering staging it. But “The Promise” is an exception. Traversing prose, poetry and drama, the other theatre readings will not be a means to an end. And the group has no intentions of staging those.
The First City Theatre will be staging two original monologues at the end of the month. And an original production is set for September. As of now you can catch up with Dylan Thomas’ “Under Milk Wood” on 10th July at The Attic, near Regal.
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