the Little Theatre
- Padma Jayaraj, Thrissur
based in Thrissur, the cultural capital of Kerala, has been in the forefront
of experiments in theatre for the past 27 years. It has been imparting
training to amateur theater groups including children, by conducting workshops
and seminars and by giving a venue for shows and festivals. Its recently
held annual drama fest showcased 10 short plays of the year 2008. The five-day
program enriched public awareness as eminent people spoke on different
aspects of Theatre. Almost all plays are amateur in execution, devoid of
stage décor and spectacle.
day, presented a solo-performance, 'KO Rangan' by Jayaprakash Kuloor,
Samayam Nataka Vedi, Payyannur, Kerala. Enacted by Satheesan the show surprised
in many ways. A too familiar Panchatantra tale acquired untold dimensions.
Physical theater as a mode of expression is used for greater concentration
on themes that the play projects. The happiness in companionship, the agony
of waiting, the pain of betrayal, the joy of homecoming and love for environment
are woven into a simple story. Minimal costumes, facial expression, voice
modulation, and body language created a commanding solo show.
tale of friendship and betrayal, between a monkey on a fig tree on the
banks of a river who befriended a crocodile, is a familiar one. The play
begins as the monkey known as K O Rangan waits for his friend anxiously.
The name links the tale of animals to that of humans. He recalls the happy
days of their growing friendship on the bank of the river under the fig
tree. As he waits he becomes anxious since he knows how ill his friend's
wife is. He has gathered quite a lot of fruits which would surely cure
her. Finally to his elation his friend comes. Together they cross the river,
and the monkey enjoys the trip. Very soon he senses the betrayal as he
is pulled down to the water. But clever as he is, he pretends how his friend
is an adept in playing pranks. And the monkey finally learns the truth.
Once again his calm resourceful mind finds the solution. The crocodile
brings him back. Homecoming is a beautiful segment full of nostalgic memories.
And the monkey climbs up and tells his friend that he is no fool. The play,
allegorical in nature, gains human dimension.
by Jayaprakash Kuloor is another experimental piece. Chakee and Chankaran
are a girl and boy in their early teens growing up. Chakee comes from upper
middle class and Chankaran is a subnormal street vendor. Here is a piece
where you hear only dialogue, dialogue without action, reminding you of
epic theater. Against a black backdrop the piece is enacted with the magic
of nuanced language that exposes the hypocrisy, hollowness, and loneliness
of the well-to do section of our society. Subtle humor marks the piece.
Binoy and Vinod have done their best to keep the audience glued to their
K O Rangan
the Land in Between,' by Kala Padhasala, Arangottukara, deals with
the crisis in farming. Farmlands being appropriated by the land mafia,
a contemporary problem in Kerala, is the focus of the play. The devious
ways of the mafia is pitted against the simplicity of the rural folk. The
play evokes the ethos of an agrarian civilization that lives in harmony
with nature. The amity between different religious groups and the humanism
they practice is highlighted.
Rani' by Edarikode Children's Theatre, directed by Parthasarathy and
Arunlal, came as a welcome relief. A realistic presentation with side-splitting
dialogues is truly an entertainment. The play gains a surprising dimension
of the farcical. A Vaikkom Mohammed Basheer story, dramatized with ethnic
flavors, it holds a mirror to life, from the satirical angle. Human fallibility
set against social ills, is the theme enacted by a group of children in
their early teens.
Ithihasangaliloode' by Jisha and P C Harish is truly experimental.
Jisha, we meet the women in Khasak whose lives had been yoked by fate to
Ravi, the central character of the famous novel. We meet these women, understand
the human situation fraught with tragedy, and accept the tragic vision
of the writer. The solo performance with a backdrop of humans as part of
a mythical village rises to the level of poetic drama.
roo..ru.. roo...' evokes a lullaby. The play by Rengachethana has a
puppet show for its prologue. Against a stark stage, the play showcases
childhood, growth, love, and its subsequent tryst, with shades of reality
peppering it. Matrimony fraught with contemporary problems like male chauvinism,
women's liberation, divorce is ultimately a sacrifice for the sake of children.
by advocate Vinod deals with the life work of V T Bhatathiripad. Popularly
known as V T, he was a social reformer who saved Kerala Brahmins from the
clutches of orthodoxy, opened a window for its youth who knew only Vedas,
encouraged widow marriages, and liberated its women. His dream of a commune
where people lived together was however thwarted by politicians. The production
has cinematic touches interspersed with flashbacks.
It is the
efforts of groups like Rengachethana that gives a stimulus to drama at
a time when the small screen rules our homes. Both the silver screen and
the visual media have smothered drama. Yet, it is heartening to note that
the theatre of love is the life-breath of many artists down the cultural
history of humanity. "Rengachethana has sustained the little theatre-movement
for the past three decades," said Dr Vayla Vasudevan Pillai, the former
director of the School of Drama, Thrissur, in the valedictory function.
Jayaraj is a freelance journalist and a regular contributor to www.narthaki.com