Charmed life on stage
There seems to be a profound serenity that envelopes theatre artistes — confident and happy in their world of theatre, a space they have created and made their own. Pobchan Leelasartsuntorn, playwright/ festival director, Moradkmai Theatre Troupe from Thailand says, “Everyone wants happiness and only material gain is not happiness. Theatre gives you an opportunity to get happiness immediately, right there and then.”
Lure of theatre
When you decide to walk an untrodden path, it surely is not going to be an easy journey. However, despite this certainty of obstacles, the love for theatre made Leelasartsuntorn take this path anyway. “I left my government job as a teacher and started teaching and building my own community. I reached a point of bankruptcy but that didn’t deter me. I forged ahead and starting from one student we now have a community of around 20.”
And it is the “sparkle we see in the eyes of the young people that keeps us going”.
Md Shahadat Hossain, Producer CAT Repertory, Centre for Asian Theatre, Bangladesh who received thunderous applause for his impressive acting in Bhelua Sundari says, “When I joined theatre, it wasn’t popular. I was young and it was a challenge that I took up. We realised that when people come to watch theatre, they are giving you their time and money, so they expect the best, and that is what we worked on — giving our best performances and are happy with the achievements we have made so far.”
In an international theatre festival people speaking different languages, having different cultures and backgrounds all perform at one place. Despite the differences, it is not only the artistes but also the audience that is totally captivated by the plays. As Bharti Sharma, director from Kshitij, New Delhi said, “It is not only through words, we communicate through body language, and if one pays attention, a person can feel what another person is feeling.”
Hossain added, “Theatre has its own language, the facial expressions, music, songs speak a lot.”
However, it is in front of an audience that doesn’t understand his local dialect that he likes performing. “The audience pays more attention and they want to understand me, and that helps me perform.”
Dr Deborah Merola, Associate Professor and Director of Theatre, Oglethorpe University, USA did have a slightly different view on it. “Though one can understand the happening or story, there are subtleties that are not understood. Even the simplest of things can make a difference in understanding the play better. However, the issues are similar all around the world, and even our plays, the story and relationships are similar to Nepal.”
Their take on Nepali theatre
“I think what Sunil has accomplished in Nepali theatre is marvellous. I had a chance to watch Fire in the Monastery which was really good,” said Dr Merola.
Comparing the situation of theatre in Nepal with Thailand, Leelasartsuntorn said, “Theatre there is still a few terms behind in terms of theatre goers. Here, there is a level of interaction and interest that Sunil has been able to create. It is great.”
Even Sharma felt that theatre is more happening in Nepal that in India. “In the past decade, there had been a decline in theatre goers, but it’s gradually picking up. I feel the situation is better here.”
There are different modes of expressing their thoughts and conveying their messages, from rich and vibrantly showcasing their culture and traditions in plays by Aarohan-Nepal, CAT Bangladesh and Ritwik, Berhampore with traditional and folk music forming an integral part of the plays, to simple yet effective humorous ones from Kshitij, New Delhi to more surreal and extreme in poetic and condensed ones from Oglethorpe-US and solo performances of that of Heather Harpham. There is a wide variety.
Elaborating on her approach Bharti said, “Its not always necessary to use big words or designs. One can even use the most simplest forms to say the most important of things.”
Besides directors, playwrights and actors, there is another very important component in theatre that makes a play complete and that is a technician. Jan Erik Skarby, technician Nordland Fylkeskommune Figurteateret i Nordland, who is involved in the technical aspects especially lighting, said that the best part of his work is “creating an atmosphere, changing the settings, shadows, everything about the stage”.
“A play is always a collaboration, everyone has to do their part, everyone is dependent on the other and we have to work together to perform a good play,” Skarby said.
They are all here to participate in the ‘Kathmandu International Theatre Festival’ which is being held at Gurukul till November 27.