Even before Agnes of God could be staged in Mumbai, far from applause, it received the wrath of Catholic institutions for its story of a novice nun, who gives birth and calls its virgin conception. Iranian writer Nassim Soleimanpour scripted White Rabbit, Red Rabbit while he was forbidden to leave his country, though the experimental play travelled the world, and has been translated into more than 15 different languages.
These controversial yet significant plays are a part of the Old World Theatre Festival, which begins today.
“We are in the 15th year of the Old World Film Festival and the idea behind it is to be able to give our audience a bird’s eye view of what is happening in the theatre scene in the country,” says Vidyun Singh, the curator of the festival and Director, Programmes, India Habitat Centre (IHC). The plays will be staged at IHC and Epicentre, Gurgaon, until October 16.
The opening play at IHC is The Ramayana, a modern interpretation of the classical Indian epic on the lives of Lord Ram and Sita, performed by Jalabala Vaidya. It is Akshara Theatre’s tribute to its founder, the late Gopal Sharman. At Epicentre the festival will kickstart with the thriller Barff by Suarabh Shukla. Set in Kashmir the play is about a couple who call a doctor to attend to their sick child, and raises questions of what is truth, and what to believe?
The 10 plays for this year will cover themes of human relationships, freedom, gender stereotypes, religion, and environment. The festival testifies to two schools of thought that currently capture the imagination in Indian theatre. One which believes that technology has enhanced the visual aspect of presentation, and the other that feels that any space can be a performing space and that theatre is all about the actor and the audience and nothing else. It is this shift in thinking of the theatre artists, writers and directors that the Old World Theatre Festival presents.
If Ladies Sangeet by Purva Naresh is a play on gender stereotyping White Rabbit, Red Rabbit by QTP Productions, questions the very premise of a script and dialogue. The focus is more on exploring new and different themes and creating a different type of theatre than just a full house or sponsorships.
Cyclorama, a series of workshops will also be conducted by eminent theatre personalities such as Anurupa Roy, Sudhanva Deshpande and Neel Chaudhari, among others. “This year, it is going to be a take-home experience for the audience as they will be able to connect with all the plays at some level or the other, which will not end even after they leave the hall,” says Singh.