The dishevelled snow white hair, with a spotlight forming a halo around it, is a giveaway. Look closely and one would know that the silhouette, shot from behind, resembles that of Albert Einstein’s. And the information on the side solves rest of the riddle: Naseeruddin Shah enacts the Nobel laureate’s role as well as directs the Canadian play Einstein by Gabriel Emanuel. The two-act play premieres on November 5 to mark the opening of the 12-day long Prithvi Theatre Festival.
The festival, which has had a roller-coaster ride in the recent past, has put up an impressive line-up of 25 performances, 13 new productions by as many groups, two circus acts, acoustic jamming sessions, five fringe theatre performances and conversations with some well-known names of the Mumbai stage.
“Even though we have planned a lot of activities, it is not really any busier than before — except for the addition of the Fringe@Prithvi. This, I hope, will encourage the theatre fraternity to experiment more by performing to an audience in a non-formal environment and to develop new ideas,” says Kunal Kapoor, Trustee of Prithvi Theatre, Juhu.
Under Fringe@Prithvi, where entry is free, plays like Falls 2-11, Krapp’s Last Tape and Songs of the Swan will be performed. Prominent among the festival plays, all set for their premiere shows, are Yatri’s Heroine Banungi Mein, Hoshruba Repertory’s Dastan-e-Choubuli, Rangabaz’s Pitras Ka Ras and Ekjute’s Roshni Ki Sadaa. For the Stage Talk section, thespians like Kumud Mishra, Shernaz Patel, Om Puri and Paresh Rawal will be dropping by at the suburban cultural hub.
During the festival’s upcoming edition, music and circus will probably grab more attention than before. Of the two acoustic jamming sessions scheduled, one features Fazal Qureshi on the tabla accompanied by 11 tabla students of Ustad Allarakha Institute of Music and the other will have students and faculty of the True School of Music, Mumbai. The Symphony Orchestra of India (SOI) too will perform works by composers like Mozart, Beethoven and Pyarelal.
“Music has been a part of the festival for some years. Prithvi Theatre is probably the only place where you can have musicians play live and sing in a completely acoustic environment. Similarly, physical theatre has been a part of our festivals before. This time, we have two schools of circus, with very different approaches,” says Kapoor.
India’s Rambo Circus will brings the magic of the Big Top into a theatre space with clowns and acrobats while an acrobatic-centric neo-circus performance, set to music, will be presented by a French group.
Almost every year, the festival has been struggling to find sponsors. This year has not been any easier for the organisers. “Unfortunately, there are not enough patrons of the arts, but only sponsors interested in standalone ‘events’. That actually contributes nothing – neither to the arts nor their products they are trying to sell,” says Kapoor.