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  Towards a Stranger theatre

Towards a Stranger theatre

Published : Dec 17, 2015, 10:10 pm IST
Updated : Dec 17, 2015, 10:10 pm IST

Since this is my last article of 2015, I thought it would be appropriate to do a wrap up of Maximum City’s year in theatre. It has been an incredibly active year, with numerous trends emerging.

Scenes from The Stranger
 Scenes from The Stranger

Since this is my last article of 2015, I thought it would be appropriate to do a wrap up of Maximum City’s year in theatre. It has been an incredibly active year, with numerous trends emerging. The advent of regular women directors is probably the most heartening development. A couple of years ago, at the same time of year, I was bemoaning the absence of women directors. There were always the ‘regulars’ like Lilette Dubey and Mahabano Mody Kotwal. However, the most talked about shows over the last 18 months have been directed by Faezeh Jalali (7/7/7), Sheena Khalid & Puja Sarup (Ila & Gentleman’s Club) and Yuki Ellias (Charged). The perspective that they are brining to the stage is markedly different. One reason for this could be the emergence of strong women-led producing houses like Fatsthearts, Patchwork Ensemble, Dur Se Brothers and Jhoom. But nonetheless these directors are delivering shows that are bold, brash and completely new in form; breathing a fresh vitality into the existing scene.

There has also been a strong shift away from the formal confines of a theatre. The Celebrate Bandra Festival took over three completely non-formal spaces including the erstwhile Jude’s Bakery. Sitara Studio has emerged as a new regular venue. Restaurants and bars like Tilt All Day and Blue Frog have hosted performances. Tamasha Theatre took their Blank Page to the Barking Deer, the Museum and other tiny non-performance spaces.

Even the Jeff Goldberg Studio hosted numerous performances in their tiny space. Tonight, for example, UK’s Filter Theatre is performing Twelfth Night in the courtyard of a mall. Suddenly, any space is a performance space.

The emergence of new centres is another excellent addition to the city’s culture-scape. The Hive, a refurbished old bungalow in Bandra, has become a regular venue for new work. Going by their early programming, G5A in Mahalaxmi promises to programme cutting-edge cross-disciplinary work.

Easily, the most exciting development has been breaking of form. ‘Site Specific’ is no longer an alien term, and features regularly in the listings.

Crow’s Bliss of Solitude has yet to open in Bombay, but it is one of the most talked about projects because of its participatory nature. New initiative Accelerated Intimacy‘s first show is a 12-hour marathon performance called 36 Questions in Proximity of a Conversation for a very small number of people at a time.

This year Thespo featured The Stranger, directed by Italian Daniele Bartolini, designed for one audience member at a time. It featured 16 actors and took place in the bylanes of Juhu.

Most of the above projects and initiatives have happened thanks to individuals supporting the arts. Online crowd-funding platforms such as Wishberry and Ketto have seen numerous plays being hosted on them, with successful results.

The corporations have also been participative. Aditya Birla’s Aadyam initiative is a huge shot in the arm, creating numerous large scale shows, that otherwise would never have seen the light of day. The Times of India, surprisingly, has also taken it upon itself to sponsor productions like Gauhar and Agnes of God. And who can ignore Disney’s grand spectacle Beauty & the Beast. It was a stupendous production and such an incredible success, that it has laid a strong foundation for more such massive-scale work.

All these initiatives are very promising; particularly in an environment of self-censorship. Powerful relevant work is being created in form and content. Most of these movements are artist-led, and some are institution-backed. It makes for an excellent platform for the second half of the decade. Bombay Theatre is poised to become even more diverse and exciting.