The stage is set for a change of scene

 thehindu.com  01/16/2020 09:12:39 

Kerala gears up for another season of play time! The 12th International Theatre Festival of Kerala (ITFoK 2020), organised by Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi (KSNA), from January 20 to January 29 at the Akademi campus in Thrissur, focusses on the theme of Imagining communities. Amitesh Grover, festival director, says the event is an attempt to disrupt imagined communities by reassembling histories, performing new alignments and calling forth new communities.

Apart from works from India, the ITFoK 2020 is set to showcase 19 plays from six countries, including Australia, the United Kingdom, Iran, Brazil, Norway and Poland. Perhaps, the highlight of this edition is the presence of renowned performer-director Professor Phillip Zarrilli, Emeritus Professor of Performance Practice at Exeter University in the UK. Phillip, whose play Told by the Wind is part of the schedule, will also present Master Keynote on Embodied consciousness.

The seven plays that are part of the International Section explores themes of defiance, unrest and forced migration.

Brazilian play Silver Epidemic, directed by Georgette Fadel for Compahnia Mungunza da Teatro, also the opening act of the festival, is inspired by the silver boys who paint themselves and perform jugglery at traffic lights in Sao Paulo. It looks at the lives of addicts and the homeless in the Brazilian city.

Mythological tale

Polish play Tree of Death, directed by Stanislaw Dembski for Pijana Sypialnia Theatre, takes its subject matter from the Polish myth of the magic pear tree in which Lady Death was imprisoned. Australian play The Director also centres on the theme of death and ventures into the taboo topic of the death industry. The plays director, Lara Thomas, teams up with a former undertaker, Scott Turnbull, for the performance.

In An Evening with Immigrant from the UK-based Fuel Productions, Inua Ellams, an immigrant poet of Nigerian origin, shares with the audience his poetry and memories from his displacement from Nigeria during his childhood to escaping death threats. I Is Another  Rimbaud in Africa, directed by Lars Oyno for Grusomhetens Theatre (Theatre of Cruelty), Norway, explores some unknown facets of the French poet Arthur Rimbaud who spent the latter half of his life as a merchant in Africa, selling coffee and guns. This is the second time Grusomhetens Theatre is participating in the ITFoK, the first was in 2013 with the play The Last Song.

Mostafah Koushki, Iranian director whose Midsummer Nights Dream was part of last years festival, is here with another Shakespearean adaptation, Coriolanus, for Mostaghel Theatre Company. Told by the Wind, created by Kaite OReilly, Jo Shapland and Phillip Zarrilli for Llanarth Theatre, UK, is a piece of inter-cultural, post-dramatic theatre developed as a research project.

The National Section includes six plays from Hyderabad, Bhopal, Bangalore, Pune, Jaipur and Goa. The highlight is Abhishek Majumdars Eidgah ki Jinnat, the performance of which was disrupted in Jaipur by a right-wing fringe group. The play deals with the plight of Kashmiris, which is depicted through the lives of two orphaned siblings. Kala Dhabba Badal Ki Tarah Aa Rahe Hai is an experimental work directed by Avijit Solanki, a graduate from the National School of Drama (NSD) for Other Theatre, a Bhopal-based alternative theatre group.

Light-hearted take

Hindi play Salma Deewani, also from another NSD graduate Bhagyasree Tarke, for The Atre Company, takes a light-hearted look at the mundane life of a lonely Hyderabadi woman who is also a die-hard Salman Khan fan. It attempts to explore the lives of women living within conservative structures. Chaheta (The Beloved), from Pune-based contemporary theatre group Aasakta Kalamanch and directed by Mohit Takalkar, talks about Abraham and his son, a common story in three religions  Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

Avyahat (in Marathi) from Hauns Sangeet Natya Mandal, Goa, is an adaptation of Goan writer and architectural historian Amita Kanekars novel A Spoke in the Wheel. Written by Kausthubh Naik and directed by Rohan Naik, the play portrays the story of Upali, the Buddhist monk commissioned by Emperor Asoka to write the biography of Gautama Buddha.

No Rest in the Kingdom, from Bengaluru-based Sandbox Collective and directed by Deepika Arwind, is a physical theatre performance that looks at the female performers body as a site of protest.

The Malayalam segment showcases six plays  Old Man and Sea, an adaptation of the Ernest Hemingway-classic by Sasidharan Naduvil for Remembrance Theatre Group, Thrissur; Chillara Samaram, written by MP Rajesh and directed by Arun Lal for Little Earth School of Theatre, Malappuram; Veendum Bhagavante Maranam, a theatrical adaptation of K R Meeras short story directed by Hazim Amaravila for Kanal Samskarika Vedi, Thiruvananthapuram; Bhaskara Pattelarum Thommiyude Jeevithavum, an adaptation of a short story by Paul Zacharia and directed by Suveeran for Backstage Vadakara; Bombay Sketches, written by Keli Ramachandran and directed by Prashanth KN for New Bombay Keraleeya Samaj, Mumbai; and Cherala Charitham, directed by Sajith KV for Nataka Sangham, Kongad, Palakkad.

Apart from the staging of plays, the ITFoK 2020 has additional platforms  performance poetry, films on theatre and seminars and the Master Talk.

Performance poetry is co-curated by Sudheesh Kottempram and MR Vishnuprasad, while films on theatre will present a selection of six national and international films that document certain performance practices that are dying out.

Apart from Phillip Zarrillis Master Keynote, there are three seminars focussing on Theatres of migration and war, Theatres of emergency, and The secular in performance traditions.

This years Ammannur Puraskaram, instituted by the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi, will be awarded to theatre critic Shantha Gokhale in recognition of her contributions as a critic and playwright.

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