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The Theatre Festival: Edition 5

Six plays over two weekends. SHONALI MUTHALALY on the line-up for this year’s MetroPlus Theatre Fest

WHAT’S In STORE (Clockwise from top left) “Antigone”, “Chicago”, “Hamlet — The Clown Prince”, “Citizen Josh”, “The Skeleton Woman” and “Medea and Its Double”

We talk in English. We talk in Korean. We even talk in gibberish.

All the world is on a stage at the newest edition of the MetroPlus Theatre Festival. It’s a babble of tongues. A meeting of contemporary and Classical theatre. A platform for both reviving tradition and bold experiments. Inspired by everything from Greek mythology to Inuit folk tales.

Six plays over two weekends. Here’s a quick listing so you can decide what to see. Better still, see them all.


August 7

Watch Naseeruddin Shah play cruel King Creon in this adaptation of Sophocles’ best-known play by Jean Anouilh. Written in 1942, when France was occupied by Nazi forces, Anouilh has used the story of Antigone and her uncle, Creon, the King, to represent the French Resistance’s struggle against the might of the Vichy government.

The play, adapted and directed by Satyadev Dubey, will be performed by Motley (Mumbai) with Ratna Pathak Shah playing Antigone. Motley, formed by Naseeruddin Shah and Benjamin Gilani in 1979, has a reputation for intelligent and engaging theatre. It tours regularly throughout the country and abroad. “Antigone” is its latest production.


August 8

It’s big, bold and beautiful. Chicago, the popular 1975 Broadway musical, deals with the dark underbelly of life — crime, corruption and murder — using music, dance and song.

A satire on corruption and celebrity criminals, it’s the story (based on a play by Maurine Dallas Watkins) of ambitious Roxie Hart, who murders her lover and is catapulted into the limelight.

Stagefright Productions premieres the musical at the festival, which features a huge all-Chennai cast and promises to be colourful and entertaining. You’ll remember director Freddy Koikaran from “Grease”, which played to packed houses a few years ago.


August 9

Director Rajat Kapur of Cinematograph, Mumbai, says “Hamlet” always fascinated him. However, when he decided to stage it, he wanted to find a way to recreate it. Which is where the clowns came in.

In this version of “Hamlet”, told in a mixture of English and gibberish, a bunch of clowns recreates the classic Shakespearean tragedy. They try to interpret the text. Sometimes they succeed. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they discover new meanings and depths to it. Very often, Rajat says, they “make a mess of it.”

So why is it significant? Because through it all they are simply looking for the essence of the story. And trying to find a context in our own times. The play swept this year’s Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards, winning in five categories, including Best Play, Best Director and Best Actor.


August 14

Here’s a story written and performed by comic monologist Josh Kornbluth, about — well — Citizen Josh.

It all began in 1980, when Josh was ready to graduate from Princeton. Only, he hadn’t done his “senior thesis.” Now, a quarter of a century later, he tracks down his old advisor, intent on completing his thesis, which is on the subject of democracy. Political theory eventually draws him into the real world of politics. U.S.-based Kornbluth has toured abroad with his monologues, usually comic explorations of events based on personal experience. He has also acted in several films and starred in a television show.

This play, directed by David Dower, is a tale that blends electoral history with stories from the civil rights movement and academia. It is supported by the U.S. Consulate General, Chennai.


August 15

Winner of the MetroPlus Playwright Award 2009, this play written by Kalki Koechlin and Prashant Prakash was inspired by an Inuit folk tale. It’s directed by Nayantara Kotian.

Their first full-length play, this is the story of a struggling writer cursed with never completing a story. Based on an eerie folk tale of the same name, which Koechlin says ‘haunted her,’ the play tells the story of a fisherman who reels in a skeleton woman when fishing in a haunted bay. An allegory on death and love, the tale is woven around how his compassion brings her back to life.

Prakash, a Mumbai-based actor, is a graduate of St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai. Koechlin, probably best known for her role in Anurag Kashyap’s “Dev D,” is a graduate in Drama and Theatre Studies from Goldsmiths, University of London. She spent two years working in London’s West End, where she performed in David Hare’s ‘The Blue Room.’


August 16

Raw emotion, spectacular sets, heartbreaking music: this version of the Euripides classic promises to haunt you.

This interpretation of the original classic features two Medeas: One is the Medea of the present, abandoned by her husband Jason, lonely and angry, desperate and revengeful, plotting the death of her two children. The other is the Medea who gave up all she had for love. Who, despite being betrayed and abandoned, is driven by her maternal instincts to protect her children.

Director Hyoung-Taek Limb of the Seoul Factory for the Performing Arts combines Korean traditional songs and singing styles with sounds from everyday, contemporary life in this production that has travelled around the world. He also fuses Korean traditional martial arts with gestures and movements, blending occidental and oriental acting disciplines, to create a production that is both innovative and visually arresting. This play is supported by the InKo Centre.

Presenting Sponsor:


Associate Sponsors: Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., LG Electronics India Pvt. Ltd, Nippon Paint

Cultural Partner: The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR)

Hospitality Partner: The Park, Chennai

Radio Partner: Chennai Live 104.8 FM

Event Manager: evam

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