THE setting was informal and the mood mellow, as the guests chatted in the living room waiting for what the invite described as a dramatised reading of Mohan Rakesh’s classic play, Aadhe Ahdure. What followed was a bit of a surprise, as members of Alankar Theatre, led by actor and director Niresh Kumar, presented the play through conversations and movement. The idea was to engage with the small audience of theatre people, artists, and writers, and get them to look closely at the actors’ process and progress with the script.
A graduate from the National School of Drama, Kumar began his journey on stage in Chandigarh with Alankar Theatre and is now also exploring the medium of film in Mumbai. “Theatre remains a constant, and the need to work on your craft and acting skills made me work on this concept of using acting in dramatised readings,” says Kumar, who began the experiment in Mumbai with three shows. Encouraged by the response, he recently held a show in Chandigarh.
The first challenge says Kumar, was to edit the three-hour play to half an hour for this format, keeping the core of the play intact. The second, was to move away from the static and flat format of reading, and get the actors to use entry and exit to converse with each other in a realistic way. “The text was paramount, as we made eye contact with the audience, with one actor playing as many as five characters, giving people a chance to look closely at the work. Without sets, lights, or music, we as actors were completely left bare, and the process gave us deep insights into our own methods, approach, and more importantly our shortcomings. We didn’t want the guests to feel this was a performance, but an evening of conversations, and sharing,” says Kumar, who hopes to present the idea in other cities.
The simple and direct format, which the audience appreciated, helped the actors, including Kumar to question the craft. The actors could connect with many people in a private environment, as Anuradha Sharma, a social worker and theatre lover, opened her home for this experiment. “There is no wall between the actors and the audience, as you are closely engaged in the drama.” Kumar is now working on another experimental play, Papa Kehte Hain, where actors talk about their fathers in dramatised movements, which Kumar also wants to present in the confines of a home or an intimate space.