Hours ahead of the inauguration of the 12th International Theatre Festival of Kerala, five of the plays are already sold out. Four of these are in English, to be performed by theatre groups from UK/Singapore, Australia and Bangalore, and the fifth is in Malayalam from a Mumbai group.
There are 19 plays on the theme of ‘Imagined Communities’ selected from across the globe – seven international ones, six national, and six Malayalam ones. Minister AK Balan will inaugurate the fest at the Kerala Sangeeta Nataka Akademi in Thrissur. The fest will end on January 29.
The opening act is Silver Epidemic, a Portuguese play from Brazil, which unites two narratives: the personal vision of the actors about real characters they have met, and the Medusa’s myth, in which people are transformed into stone. It will be staged at 7 pm on Monday, following the inaugural ceremony.
Among the sold out plays, Told by the Wind from Singapore/UK, a 55-minute production, will be staged the first two days. It is a new performance of movement and text that ‘dances’ an inner landscape about two figures, two lives, in multiple time spaces.
Another notable play, An Evening with an Immigrant, from a theatre group in England, is about the life of director Inua Ellams’, who was born to a Muslim father and a Christian mother in Nigeria and moved to England aged 12. In this play littered with poems and stories, Inua will tell his immigrant story of escaping fundamental Islam, doing solo shows at the National Theatre and drinking wine with the Queen of England, all the while without a country to belong to.
The Malayalam play Bombay Sketches from Mumbai is another popular one, about life in the Maximum City described as ‘the city with its frozen tears, untold pain and the sighs that’s scared to breathe out give a different perspective to its humanity.’ It comes from the acclaimed director KS Prashant Narayanan.
No Rest in the Kingdom from Bengaluru is yet another sold out play, which is a physical theatre performance that ‘came out of the need to have a conversation about the daily and dangerous misogynist we are complicit in perpetrating’. It is a dark comedy that looks at the female performer’s body as a site of protest and allows it to embody characters — male, female and feline.
There is also demand for the Australian play The Director, a bold new performance featuring a former undertaker of 21 years, Scott Turnbull, and artiste Lara Thoms, who is the director of the play. The two use humour and first-hand knowledge to demystify, expose and expand elements of the death industry (‘a very expensive drive-through meal’) and dig a little deeper on what happens after we go.
Other plays include Eidgah Ki Jannat from Bengaluru, Coriolanus from Iran, Cherala Charitham from Palakkad, Bhaskarapatelarum Thommiyute Jeevithavum from Kozhikode, I is Another – Rimbaud in Africa from Norway, Veendum Bhagavante Maranam from Thiruvananthapuram, Chillara Samaram from Malappuram, Avyahat from Goa, Chaheta from Pune, Old Man and Sea from Thrissur, Salma Deewani from Hyderabad, Tree of Death from Poland and Kala Dhabbah Badel ki Tarah Aa Raha Hai from Bhopal.
The first edition of the ITFoK was held in December 2008 and focussed on Asian theatre. The festival featured a national and Malayalam panorama, and plays from SAARC countries. Through the years the ITFoK became a platform to not only showcase contemporary theatre from across the world, but also for folk and traditional theatre forms from Kerala and other parts of the country. It also became an interactive space between the participating artists and the audience. Last year, being held soon after the devastating floods of Kerala, the festival was organised in a limited budget featuring 13 plays.