The concept of Intimate Theatre is one which is seldom heard of. It consists of a performance where the performers are barely a few feet away from the audience. The aim is to connect with the audience on a different level altogether; to involve them and create an experience which affects both the parties in a way in which no other form of performance can. So I was quite pleasantly surprised to find out that five different theatre groups of Calcutta were coming together for such a performance.
The show titled ‘Without Curtains’ was a collaboration between Notice Board, Bauria Peoples Repertory Theatre, Bibhaban, M.A.D ( Mad About Drama) and Hypokrites, five of the city’s acclaimed theatre groups. Some of them comprised of college students, and some had professional actors. The only common link between them was their love for theatre.
The evening started off with an informal discussion on Intimate Theatre. Both the performers and the audience shared their thoughts on taking theatre off the stage and presenting it in a different form. Aritra Sengupta from M.A.D delved on how this particular form of drama bridges the gap between the actual performances and the rehearsals, while Anuvab Sengupta from Hypokrites spoke about the benefits of intimate theatre, including its low cost of production and the dialogue that it facilitates between the viewer and the performer. The negligible scope of error in Intimate Theatre was another aspect which was discussed at length.
The first performance of the evening was ‘Why So Serious?’ by Notice Board. The play was centred around student politics prevalent in the city and how it affects an individual. With some effective use of props and witty dialogues, the play brought out the irony in how the two major political parties of the city differ in their ideals and actions. Spirited performances by Souradeep Roy and Adreeta Chatterjee and a fantastic portrayal of the Chief Minister by Poulomi Roy ensured that the play was a delight to watch. The live music in the background, primarily with an acoustic guitar, a couple of upturned buckets and a few plates and spoons gave a garage band-ish feel and added to the animated character of the play. Though there was sufficient scope for improvement, the play was one which provoked thoughts which have been there on every Calcuttan’s mind ever since the TMC took over, but which very few have voiced.
Next up were Bauria Peoples Repertory Theatre with their play titled ‘Bhool Rasta’ (Wrong Road). Performed in a mix of Hindi and Bengali, the play was based on Pandavani, a form of folk theatre from Chattisgarh, which narrates episodes from the Mahabharata. With an absolutely stunning performance from Utpal Phauzdar, which got a standing ovation from the audience, supported ably by Amit Das, they narrated the story of a prince who gets lost during his journey and finds a second family in the midst of the forest. By using theatre, the group put forward the evils and redundancies of social barriers which divide people.
The third play of the evening, ‘Black Coffee’ by Bibhaban was one which concentrated essentially on dialogues, rather than actions. Shobhen Ganguly and Supriyo Samajdar, two veteran theatre actors of the city, indulged in a deep conversation in a state of apparent intoxication. Through their conversation, they questioned social stigmas, such as one’s actions always being pre-decided by the ‘system’ that he or she is made to follow and, the physical aspect of a relationship with a much younger partner in comparison to the platonic feeling of love. They also highlighted how the status of a person is ascribed, rather than achieved in society. The play managed to capture the Bengali spirit with some effective dialogues and recorded music.
The next play was ‘Somebody That I Used To Know <3 :* :P’ by M.A.D (Mad About Drama). It dealt with the lives of three people, their relationships with each other, and its after effects. The play went into the depths of the characters, exploring their darker sides, and bringing their post-relationship hate for each other to the surface. Aritra Sengupta, Romit Roy and Sharmistha Pandey as the three protagonists of the play put in an honest effort, though with a bit of fine-tuning, they could have managed it much better. The gradual change in their characters during the course of the play was well projected; and ultimately it was this very change, which made the play a memorable one. Although some of the basic elements of theatre were ignored, the play managed to leave a mark on the minds of the audience, as it narrated a story similar to what many people face in the course of their lives. The emoticons used in the title of the play depicting the change in a modern-day relationship from the initial love to infatuation and ultimately the realization that all of it was a mistake, was a concept well thought of, but could have been executed much better.
The last play of the evening by Hypokrites, titled ‘Bhalo’ (Good), was the shortest and probably the most impacting amongst all the plays. With an absolutely magnificent performance by Anuvab Sengupta, supported by Anindya Sain, the play recounted events from various stages of the protagonist’s life. It was centred around the theme of perception and focused on how the same thing may be perceived differently by different people, giving rise to different emotions. Satyam Bhattacharya’s live painting which went on throughout the play, found its relevance only at the end, and when it did, it left the audience with a sense of wonder and amazement.
The evening was not only about the love for theatre that these groups have or their performances. It was also which left you with a thought to spare. Overall, ‘Without Curtains’, with plays being performed in English, Hindi and Bengali (and sometimes a mix of the languages) was a treat for theatre enthusiasts in a city which refuses to let go off its innate love for the performing arts.
Photographs by Sounak Roy