From the experimental to the surreal, the Eighth Theatre Olympics charms Chennai

Organised by the National School of Drama, the 51-day nationwide theatre extravaganza will be held across 17 cities in the country.
From the experimental to the surreal, the Eighth Theatre Olympics charms Chennai
From the experimental to the surreal, the Eighth Theatre Olympics charms Chennai
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At first, there’s only darkness. Then, a soft light slowly starts glowing on stage, bringing to focus a brown cupboard on one side, a small, rather knobbly looking, desk and an old-fashioned chair, fashioned out of twig. There is also a funnel-like apparatus, attached to a long, narrow tube glowing faintly behind.

Slowly, Ticina glides on to the stage — fully cloaked, only wisps of her golden hair visible under her hood. She stretches out her thin hands to chase the tiny ghosts floating around.

Ticina is odd and lonely. She travels to the city, scaring everyone who meets her. During her trips, she also stumbles upon her gift, which is also her curse – everything she touches dies.

She is (Mor)Ticina – death. Does she make friends or does her gift overwhelm her life itself?

Photo courtesy: NSD website 

With musty, old crimson curtains framing the stage, it transforms to a world of its own.

Ticina is the creation of Il Teatro Baule, an Italian theatre group, and was recently staged in Chennai as part of the ongoing Theatre Olympics. This was one of the ten plays curated

The play is one among the ten different theatres curated for the folks in the city.

Ticina is a completely devoid of dialogues and artists deftly use lightly to create entire objects and scenes. Watching this is an incredibly surreal experience. The music transports you to a different plane altogether.

Simona Di Maio, one of its directors, who also plays Ticina, is thrilled to be in Chennai.

Having performed Ticina it in over 10 different stages all over the world, Simona says it took them almost 90 days of practise and rehearsals to breathe life into the play. Having also staged it exclusively for children in Italy she says, “The play is our understanding of the concepts of life and death. It is very rewarding and interesting for us to watch how adults and children relate to the play quite differently.”

Theatre Olympics

The eighth edition of the World Theatre Olympics was inaugurated in New Delhi on February 17 by Vice President Venkaiah Naidu. Theatre Olympics came into existence in Delphi, Greece, in 1995, initiated by the prominent theatre director Theodoros Terzopoulos. 

The event has since travelled to countries like Japan, Russia, Turkey, South Korea, China and Poland, before coming to India for the first time.

Titled ‘The Flag of Friendship’, this edition is being directed by Ratan Thiyam, one of leading figures of the ‘Theatre of Roots’ movement in Indian theatre. 

Organised by the National School of Drama (NSD), the 51-day nationwide theatre extravaganza will be held across 17 cities in the country. The festival will come to a close on April 8 in Mumbai. 

This is the first time Chennai is hosting such a theatre festival, says Regin Rose, a theatre personality and alumni of NSD. Regin was the coordinator of the festival.

“While Tamil Nadu has a rich culture and tradition of folk art and street plays, the state does not have one drama school. Nor has it conducted a theatre festival, unlike the other states in the country,” he adds. “You’ll probably find a handful of practising theatre professionals in the city.”

Why is the state not actively engaging in more theatre?

“Tamil Nadu schools do not have an hour allocated for theatre, while the other states like Kerala do. There are no proper schools/institutions if someone wants to pursue drama studies here. Also, there’s very minimal (if not non-existent) encouragement from the government in this regard. This coming from a state that stages dramas and plays as part of its political discourses and religious festivals,” Regin says. 

“While we have a rich tradition, we also have to move ahead towards experimental plays and progressive theatre,” he adds.

Held at Tamil Isai Maiyam in Broadway, the festival is on until February 27. The plays are unticketed – a concession that was requested for Chennai in particular.

For details on schedules, please check their website. There are special workshops and masterclasses also being held at Museum Theatre as part of the Theatre Olympics. 

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