Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Theatre: Theory and Practice @ Thrissur - A Report

Thrissur has the privileged sobriquet of being the ‘cultural capital of Kerala’, and so visiting Thrissur has always been a top priority on my academic go-to places. It’s little surprise then, and a coincidence too that this semester I had the opportunity of visiting three prestigious colleges in and around Thrissur, starting with Mar Dionysius College and now in Sree Kerala Varma College!

From my interactions with the Professors here at SKV, I came to know very interesting facts about the college. Sankaran Nambiar, a literary giant, [known for his renowned Malayala Bhasha Charitram,] was the first principal of this college. Moreover, greats like T. Balakrishna Menon, G. S. Ramakrishna have also worked here, they said. Quite interestingly, the college got affiliation to University of Madras, and it was inaugurated on 11th August 1947.  For the first time in Kerala, a course in Music was offered only in this college, I was told.

The three-day National Seminar on Theatre at Sree Kerala Varma College, Thrissur got underway today (25 Nov) at 10 a.m. Mangai from Stella Maris, Chennai [Currently Visiting Professor, Centre for the Study of Law & Governance, New Delhi], gave the key-note address on “Theatre as Transformative”.  Elaborating on the primal texts like Aristotle’s Poetics, Bharatha’s Natya Shastra, and the golden text of the Sangam Age – Meypaatiyal of Tolkappiyam, she said that humour is much more subversive than tragedy, but “Aristotle doesn’t give us much of comedy – it’s quite truncated”. Silappadikaram translates the tenets of Natya Shastra and the Poetics, and this unique epic literature [Silappadikaram] deals extensively on music and dance, and also describes the various grammatical and technical rules that define music and dance, she added.

The weight of being a great and a ‘heavy’ tradition is a burden, she said, and so the very ancient nature of theatre can also be a burden, at times! Theatre is a discipline, and what they call experimental theatre in the West is actually our traditional theatre, she opined.

The very ephemeral nature of theatre makes it a perfect medium for capturing the raw emotions of the moment. In other words, the ephemerality of ‘Hold that Moment’ gives theatre its significance. So every single space that you occupy makes a huge difference!

Chandradasan, Artistic Director, Lokdharmi Theatre, spoke on ‘Theatre in the Globalised Context’. His talk approached theatre from socio-political outlook, as a product of the collective, and reflected on the paradoxes offered by the new spirit of globalization.

Excerpts from his talk:

Theatre is a cultural construct – and culture is a political construct; thus theatre represents the pangs of the time and social anguish through representations / metaphors / images / narrations, etc.

The connotation of the term globalization is mostly about the global influence of imperialism rooted in a capitalist economy which is decided by market strategies of selling and profiting, decided by the industrial/commercial/corporate house, the politics of market trying to control all walks/sensibilities/sensitivities of life including the cultural milieu.

The new era of globalization is creating the feeling of a global village, where boundaries and distinctions fade off, different entities merge and dissolve into a melting pot – and at the same time this is not relaly real. It offers a virtual reality of oneness, a hallucinatory possibility which never is true. At the core, issues of race, ethnicity, gender, nation and many more socio-cultural-political issues are operating negating a homogenous global entity. So the happy safe bubble of a global culture and hence a global art practice is just an idealistic metaphor, a dream which is never actual. The advances of technology and communication systems reinforce the fact that such a global system is never possible.

Deepan Sivaraman, from School of Culture and Creative Experience, Ambedkar University, New Delhi, shared his experiences with Theatre while talking on the ‘Post-dramatic turn’ in Theatre.

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