Curtains down on power play

Updated: Jan 03, 2019, 09:34 IST | Shunashir Sen

A travelling festival featuring international participants will put the focus on devised theatre, which challenges traditional hierarchies during the staging of a play

Curtains down on power play

Devised theatre is a process that seeks to inject a sense of democracy in the way a play is readied for the stage. It began in Paris and involves having a malleable idea for a script. But there is nothing written down on paper to begin with. And the lines for the characters begin to form only after each member of the cast and crew — be it the actors or technicians — starts leaving his own creative imprint on that initial idea, allowing it to blossom into a coherent narrative. Everyone's an equal stakeholder in this exercise, and there is no power structure whatsoever.

"The idea is to break the hierarchal tradition of making theatre that's written by somebody, who is the God. Then there is someone else who interprets the script, who is the boss, and the actors are considered replaceable. So, devised theatre was a counter to this system, and the intention is to show that actors aren't tools. They are artistes who can create performances on their own and are thus given power positions," says Titas Dutta, who studied this form of drama for two years at the Berlin branch of The London International School of Performing Arts (LISPA).

Titas Dutta
Titas Dutta

Having now returned to India, Dutta has co-founded a theatre group called The Collaborators along with Vivek Kumar, her husband, and will now manifest her education with an event called Whilst Walking Touring Festival (WWTF). The two have roped in some of Dutta's LISPA batch mates from five different countries — such as Julia Proglhof (Austria), Niall Machin (England) and Gina Battle Oliva (Spain) — for the fest. And they will take it to six Indian cities — Pune, Bengaluru, Puducherry, Kolkata, Agra and Mumbai — hosting workshops and staging the plays that this diverse group needed to, well, devise for their coursework.

One of these pieces is called Gut Buddies. It's a comedy by a Berlin-based group of the same name, and stars a duo playing the roles of a parasite embedded in the human gut and an antibody that's been sent to kill it. Initially, the antibody views the parasite as his enemy. But then a curious kinship develops between the two the longer they spend time together, to the extent that the antibody lies to his superiors in order to save his friend. Finally, when it's time for the former to leave, the parasite is left so alone and dejected that she dies soon after anyway. "The point is that you can put any two people in this situation — a man and woman, the Jew and the German, or a Hindu and a Muslim — and when you look at it from that perspective, the fable becomes something else," Dutta explains.

She adds that the workshops will focus completely on devised theatre and how it can serve as an alternative tool for communication. "We are also trying to create a dialogue where you are constructive with your own ideas and still have the space for disagreement," Dutta says of WWTF, which will begin in Pune this weekend before culminating in Mumbai in March, by when the idea is to have a platform for people who seek to shatter the hierarchal prism through which the world of theatre is traditionally viewed.

On January 6 to March 1
Call 8452059383 for details of the shows

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