Familiar and novel
The fourth edition of the MetroPlus Theatre Fest features an eclectic mix of plays. SHONALI MUTHALALY on the extravaganza that begins on August 1
Playtime The Bard is revisited once again in A Midsummer Night’s Dream while The Whale innovatively presents Moby Dick, and The Suit is simple, haunting and stunningly effective
Some things change. Some things remain the same. Back in Chennai for the fourth consecutive year, the MetroPlus Theatre Fest is a mix of the familiar and the novel. Of course, there is the eclectic mix of plays that Chennai has witnessed in previous
years, from India and abroad. A string of productions — seven in all — that promise to engage and entertain theatre addicts from the city and elsewhere.
But the fourth edition of the Fest, like every other one before it, has plenty that is new. To begin with, we showcase an interesting intercultural experiment — performed by Project InDeACT, an Indo-German initiative with a Director from Berlin and cast drawn almost entirely from Chennai. Supported by the Goethe Institut, “Electronic City” is a parable of the times, about a world dominated by technology and controlled by clocks. Directed by Johannes von Matuschka, Falk Richter’s play, which has a hard experimental edge, is a result of a two-month effort of workshopping and rehearsing in Chennai.
This year, we also host a symposium titled ‘English Theatre in India: Challenge and Opportunity’. Held at the theatre venue, the Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Concert Hall, on August 6 at 6 p.m., the symposium is chaired/moderated by Bangalore-based writer and director Arshia Sattar.
The speakers at the event are a mix of playwrights, directors and actors from around the country are Mahesh Dattani, Poile Sengupta, Keval Arora, Shernaz Patel, P.C. Ramakrishna and Sabina Jaitly.
On August 5, Evam, our event manager, will run a workshop on how to start your own theatre group.
For those who arrive early at the venue, there are a host of allied activities including bands playing everything from slow rock to world music. Also planned in association with DakshinaChitra is a class on pottery and workshops on stone carving and glass blowing.
We also have a short reading from “Harlesden High Street,” which won the MetroPlus Playwright Award 2008. Participating in this will be the playwright, Abhishek Majumdar. More details about these activities in the coming days.
Two foreign plays
The line-up this year includes two foreign plays. There’s the award-winning “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by the Yohangza Theatre Company. An unusual adaptation of Shakespeare’s well-loved play, this Korean version with subtitles follows an original and rather poetic script, incorporating themes from Korean culture and folklore. The play, which the Scotsman called “wonderfully wicked, clever and magical” is currently on a world tour, and is being presented by the InKo Centre and the Korea Foundation, in association with AsiaNow Productions.
The other foreign play is equally unusual. “The Whale”, by Concrete Temple Theatre, New York, is told by one man, accomplished dancer Carlo Adinolfi.
He uses his body, voice and an extraordinary collection of props to recreate the story of Moby Dick, featuring life on the ship and the great whale itself. Staged at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and in various places in the U.S., “The Whale” is brought to Chennai with the support of the United States Consulate General. Commending its “touches of humour” and “artistry”, the Daily Mail’s critic said it “deserves to be seen.”
A husband comes home to find his wife in bed with another man. So he punishes her by making her keep her lover’s suit, and treat it like an honoured guest in their home.
Till, it breaks her. The stunningly simple, yet haunting, story of “The Suit”, is shaped by one of the country’s finest directors, Neelam Mansingh Chowdhry and staged by The Company (from Chandigarh). “The Suit,” which showed at the National School of Drama Festival earlier this year, is possibly one of the most intense and dramatic English plays produced in India recently.
The ever-popular play “Love Letters” is here this time, by Rage from Mumbai, starring two extremely well-known names — Shernaz Patel and Rajit Kapoor. A sure winner with audiences, the play, which opened in 1993, has completed 250 performances, making it possibly India’s longest running English Play.
Q Theatre Productions from Mumbai, which performed at the festival before with “Beyond Therapy” is back this year with another comedy, “The President is Coming.”
This fast-paced, satirical comedy, which guarantees many laughs, explores a reality-TV style situation where six candidates desperately vie with one another for a chance to meet the U.S. President.
And last but by no means the least, is “Creeper.” Funny and poignant, the play is written and directed by the talented young Bangalore-based Ram Ganesh Kamatham and presented by the Actor’s Ensemble India Forum in Bangalore.
With an innovative new script and two talented actors, the play effectively moves what is based on a folk tale to a contemporary urban setting, creating an atmosphere that is at once bizarre, funny and endearing.
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