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Lite Blogs Theatre

Peter Brook’s death like the end of an era

Performing Shakespeare under a circus tent with a trapeze artiste swinging wildly in ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ was his much celebrated production, making him the new creative voice in British theatre…writes Neelam Mansingh

“I can take any empty space and call it a bare stage. A man walks across the empty space whilst someone else is watching him, and this is all that is needed for an act of theatre to be engaged,” wrote Peter Brook famously in his book ‘Empty Space’. A book that most theatre directors and actors hold close to their heart.

This book has single handedly played a huge role in shaping attitudes, approaches, concepts, vocabularies and in making the ‘invisible visible’, cutting across physical boundaries and cultural references.

A lighthouse of profound ideas, he shared with us, a new way of looking at text, space and body. Stripping it of the superficial, the extraneous and getting to the bone of the matter. “He is,” said Sir Barry Jackson, the producer for whom Brook first worked, “the youngest earthquake I know.” His actors talk about needing an oxygen tent after his rehearsals.

He has been described in various ways, one adjective contradicting the other, but all equally valid. From being called a madman to a genius, an abrasive intellectual to an extraordinary showman, myths circulate around him, crystalised and made epic, by his extraordinary talent and his constant desire for change.

His life is as fascinating as his work. Born in London in 1925, the son of a Russian emigrant chemist, his parents were penniless when they arrived in England, until his father invented Brooklax, a laxative. Due to the success of this pill the family became well-ensconced financially, leaving their penury-ridden existence behind.

Aware of his Russian ancestry, most people refused to accept Brook as a Russian surname, and were convinced that he was hiding his parentage. Many incidents of Brook leaving lucrative job offers due to an argument about his name, becoming a subject of inquiry and distrust, are part of the folklore that followed Brook.

Performing Shakespeare under a circus tent with a trapeze artiste swinging wildly in ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ was his much celebrated production, making him the new creative voice in British theatre.

Despite success, accolades and huge grants, he ran away from British Theatre and spent the next five decades of his career in Paris, working on a project that could be termed idiosyncratic. His project, ‘Conference of the Birds’, compiled in a book, shared experiences of taking his actors from the cocoon of living in Paris to the tumult, heat and dust of traversing a difficult and alien landscape in Africa.

His international group of actors were made to take this journey in an attempt to search for a new language of sound. To figure out if actors from different cultures and backgrounds could transcend the clogged urbanisation of city living and, through encounters and confrontations, bring a richer perception and quality to their lives.

I met Peter Brook in Bhopal at Bharat Bhavan in 1981, when he was touring India to identify actors, forms, images, colours and smells that could be fed into his production, based on the ‘Mahabharata’. Through this production, Brook sought to achieve universality and comprehensibility through images and gestures, stating that the ‘Mahabharata’ did not belong to one country or race but to humanity.

A workshop was organised at Bharat Bhavan, which included an overwhelming list of celebrated directors, local actors, dancers, musicians and observers. I was supposed to manage the logistics of the workshop and see to Brook’s comfort and well-being. What I noticed was a watchful man, with a gnomish appearance, short and stocky, dressed in lose denims, but the energy that flowed were like tiny bomb explosions.

An exercise was given, in which the directors, including Brook, had to choreograph the opening scene from Kalidasa’s ‘Shakuntalam’ — the first meeting of Dushyanta, the king, and the maiden Shakuntala.

Brook’s wife, the brilliant actress Natasha Parry, played Shakuntala without carrying the cultural baggage, memory or references to the character. Escaping the cliched performance templates that existed for characterising classical characters, Brook made us see through Parry’s Shakuntala a fresh avatar of the classical heroine.

Utterly alive, an animated being, a voluptuous spring of sexuality that one may never have associated with the image of Shakuntala, as we knew her from our Sanskrit theatre classes! His chapter on Deadly Theatre was understood practically!

During that visit, I was supposed to buy him a gift as a way of thanking him. But I had read that Peter Brook possesses three shirts, one suit and two pairs of jeans. His home has minimal furniture and no artifacts. A rootless man, actually nomadic is how he has been described. It was truly a dilemma to locate a gift for the spartan Brook!

He made the impossible possible by staging a nine-hour-long performance of the ‘Mahabharata’ in a stone quarry framed against a forest on the outskirts of Avignon.

Starting at sunset and ending with the sunrise was magical, where the two warring families with their arches taunt and a giant wheel rolling across the stage shows the great battle with cosmic grandeur. A clash of two great dynasties, locked in a moral fight of ideal heroes representing divine forces arrayed against demonic energies, creating a production of monumental dimension. This was in 1985.

Peter Brook’s death is like the end of an era, the loss of a revered figure. A formidable creative giant, a theorist, and definitely an anarchist, who tore into established ways of working by introducing something fresh, novel and experimental. He believed very deeply in the transformative power of theatre and his legacy will live on.

What one could only dream about was actualised by Brook, not one to be intimidated by the scale and vision of his own inspiration. It was the gift that he bequeathed to the world of theatre. Take risks, jump the cliff, let your vision swirl in a vertiginous precipice!

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India News London News Theatre

Ambivalence on Gandhi versus Godse in London play

Its sister paper on Sundays The Observer was not as enthusiastic. It said, “this is a first-person narrative, delivered with bias and embellishments”…reports Ashish Ray

A controversial play on the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi performed at the prestigious National Theatre in London has fared well at the box office and has even received praise in reviews in a section of the British press.

A spokeswoman for the National Theatre indicated the stage show had achieved a “a seated capacity of 80 per cent throughout the course of the run” since last month.

The main character in the production is not Gandhi, but his killer Nathuram Godse. The depiction unfolds into a portrayal of Gandhi versus Godse ideologies, leaving comment on them somewhat unanswered, unless the audience is expected to reach a conclusion from the cacophony of Godse’s role.

“Any dramatization of history requires a degree of imaginative licence of the playright,” argued the writer of the play Chennai-born Anupama Chandrasekhar in a note in the programme for the performance. That’s fair enough. She continued: “This is not to say that the play is primarily a work of fiction. Rather, I have used history as the frame within which I could track the trajectories of both Gandhi and Godse, and therefore, of India.”

Admittedly, not a great deal is known that widely about Godse compared to a universal figure like Gandhi. This is but natural. How can a school dropout, who worked briefly as a tailor’s assistant and was in Chandrasekhar’s words “a small-time party worker” of the Hindu Mahasabha and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and then the assassin of the father of the Indian nation be of general curiosity other than his unspeakable crime?

Chandrasekhar described it as “this battle between the Champion of Ahimsa and his very opposite”. Can hate and violence be on the same pedestal as Gandhi’s peace and non-violence? She acknowledged in reference to two million people dying at the time of the partition of India: “The fact that Bengal was fairly peaceful is testament to how much people respected Gandhi – and how big India’s loss was with his death.”

Yet, she leaves the question suspended on stage and indeed permits Godse the last word. The uninitiated could leave the hall a little baffled between right and wrong, the hero and the villain. They could even wonder if today’s extremism is justified because of the death sentence handed down to Godse.

Chandrasekhar highlights the story of Godse being brought up as a girl by his parents. Is there a suggestion that the psychological injury thus committed on him at childhood was the cause of him going astray? Grounds for what he did? It’s a risky territory to venture into without scientific substantiation.

“When it comes to taboo-busting, Anupama Chandrasekhar has form,” wrote The Guardian. Its sister paper on Sundays The Observer was not as enthusiastic. It said, “this is a first-person narrative, delivered with bias and embellishments”.

Financial Times called it an “exhilarating, epic play”. But the Daily Telegraph defined it as a “dramatically slight study of Gandhi and his killer”. The New European summed up, “it’s hard not to feel Chandrashekhar has bitten off more than she can chew”.

Shubham Saraf as Godse, Paul Bazely as Gandhi and Sagar Arya as Vinayak Savarkar, not to mention Ayesha Dharkar as Godse’s mother and Sid Sagar as Narayan Apte, catch the eye. Director Indhu Rubasingham brings script together in parts quite arrestingly.

A rumour doing the rounds was the Indian government refused permission for the play to be staged in India. This was dismissed by the National Theatre spokeswoman who said: “There has never been any plan or intention to produce the play at another venue in the UK or abroad.”

The play’s current run finishes this weekend.

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Lite Blogs Theatre

Hong Kong Arts Festival to create curated performances

The Hong Kong Arts Festival (HKAF), one of Asia’s premier international cultural festivals, will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2022…reports Asian Lite News

To commemorate this significant occasion, the HKAF will host a series of online performances spanning music, dance, theatre, and more from late February to March for the enjoyment of a global audience.

This year’s HKAF uses “connections” and “arts and technology” as key themes to underscore the importance of staying in touch with the world in the Covid era. It continues to pivot to more online offerings, as it did last year, which should please a global audience, as they will be able to enjoy the specially curated performances regardless of geographical boundaries.

Highlights of the online performances include:

The Hong Kong Jockey Club Series

Bayerische Staatsoper (Bavarian State Opera) (Germany)

Korngold’s Die tote Stadt (The Dead City), Date: Feb 24 – Mar 3 (HK Time)

Shostakovich’s The Nose, Date: Mar 10 – 17 (HK Time)

. National Theatre Brno (Czech Republic)

Martinu’s The Greek Passion, Date: Mar 17 – Mar 24 (HK Time)

. Bamberg Symphony Orchestra (Germany)

Three live-streamed concerts, Date: Mar 4, 9 & 12 (HK Time)

Family Concert, Date: Apr 11 – 25 (HK Time)

. Ontroerend Goed (Belgium)


TM, Date: Feb 26 – Mar 27 (Every Sat and Sun, HK Time)

. Odeon-Theatre de l’Europe (France)

Moliere: Tartuffe and The School for Wives, Date: Feb 26 – Mar 27 (Every Sat and Sun, HK Time)

. Dead Centre (Ireland)


To Be A Machine (Version 1.0), Date: Mar 23 – 26 (HK Time)

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India News Obituary Theatre

Ad, theatre veteran Burjor Patel passes away

In his long career spanning over six decades in the Gujarati theatre and ad world, Birhor had worked with The Statesman of Kolkata and the Khaleej Times of Dubai…reports Asian Lite News.

Veteran advertising and theatre personality Burjor Patel, passed away here on Tuesday, his family announced.

He was 91 and the end came mainly due to old age.

Patel was the husband of the late theatre actress Ruby Patel and father of well-known TV actress Shernaz Patel, son mediaperson Marzban, and another daughter Feeroza.

In his long career spanning over six decades in the Gujarati theatre and ad world, Burjor had worked with The Statesman of Kolkata and the Khaleej Times of Dubai.

Leading people from both the industries in India and the UAE have condoled the passing of Patel.

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Arts & Culture India News Theatre

Qadir Ali Baig Theatre Festival to kick off on Oct 21

The inaugural ceremony this year will have poetry of Prince Moazzam Jah read by Mohammad Ali Baig and sung by Mala Bararia…reports Asian Lite News.

The 16th edition of Qadir Ali Baig Theatre Festival, one of India’s most significant theatre events, will be held here from October 21 to 24.

Host of eminent names like Ila Arun, K.K. Raina, Denzil Smith, Heeba Shah and others will play in this internationally-reputed festival.

It was the only festival of its scale that was conducted live last year despite Covid-19 pandemic.

Curated by eminent theatre personality and Padma Shri awardee Mohammad Ali Baig, the festival presents the pick of Indian theatre actors and world-renowned playwrights.

It is an annual tribute to Hindustani theatre legend late Qadir Ali Baig, held in association with the Government of Telangana every year.

Another important aspect of the festival is that it is launched from historically significant locations. For the second year in a row, the festival will be launched at Moazzam Jahi Market, a city landmark which has been restored by authorities.

In the past the festival was launched at Falaknuma Palace, Taramati Baradari and Raj Bhavan.

The inaugural ceremony this year will have poetry of Prince Moazzam Jah read by Mohammad Ali Baig and sung by Mala Bararia.

Moazzam Jah was the son of Mir Osman Ali Khan, seventh and last Nizam or ruler of erstwhile Hyderabad State. Moazzam Jahi Market, inaugurated in 1935, is named after him.

Minister for municipal administration and urban development K.T. Rama Rao will release the festival brochure. This will be followed by staging of the play ‘Guards at the Taj’.

Written by Rajiv Joseph and directed by Shishir Singh Chauhan, the play features Shishir Singh Chauhan and Gautam Sharma.

‘Guards at the Taj’ is a dark comedy written by Pulitzer Prize-nominated American playwright Rajiv Joseph about two average men swept by the beauty, carnage and injustice surrounding one of the most famous wonders of the world.

The other plays in the festival will be staged at Raddison Blue Plaza. They include ‘Yeh Raaste Hain Pyaar ke’ written and directed by Ila Arun and featuring Ila Arun, K.K. Raina and Avinash Ujjain; ‘Out at Sea’, written by Slawomir Mrozek, directed by Heeba Shah; ‘Checkmate’ written by Ganesh Patro and directed by Dr Kotla Hanumantha Rao; and ‘Bombay Jazz’ written by Ramu Ramanathan and directed by Etienne Coutinho.

The festival features a workshop on physical theatre by Heeba Shah, master class on play writing by Ramu Ramanathan and master class by Mohammad Ali Baig on ‘Integrating heritage and theatre;.

Like last year, the festival this year will be conducted in accordance with pandemic safety protocols.

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Lite Blogs Theatre UK News

Riverdance prepares for UK tour

The show will visit 27 venues from 27th August 2021. All the 2020 tour dates have successfully been replaced and new shows have been added…reports Asian Lite News.

Riverdance, a popular theatrical fusion show mainly of traditional Irish music and dance. Preparations are underway for Riverdance: The New 25th Anniversary Show which is set for a UK tour starting from August 26th .

Described by The Arts Review as “magical, moving and utterly memorable”, the show is a powerful and stirring reinvention of this family favourite, celebrated the world over for its Grammy Award-winning music and the thrilling energy and passion of its Irish and international dance.

The show will visit 27 venues from 27th August 2021. All the 2020 tour dates have successfully been replaced and new shows have been added.

Amazingly, the cast for this rescheduled tour are so young that they were not even born in the year that the show first opened – 1995 at the Point Theatre in Dublin. The popular show has already visited over 450 venues worldwide and been seen by over 25 million people. To find out more visit www.riverdance.com.

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Films Lite Blogs Theatre

‘East is East’ to return to Brum after 25 years

The play is set in 1971 in Salford where fish-and-chip owner George Khan expects his family to follow his strict Pakistani Muslim ways…reports Asian Lite News.

A new revival of the classic play ‘East is East’ is to return to Birmingham 25 years after premiering at the city’s Repertory Theatre in 1996. Since then, East is East has sold out three London runs, been adapted into a BAFTA award-winning film and become a modern classic of comic drama. 

The play is set in 1971 in Salford where fish-and-chip owner George Khan expects his family to follow his strict Pakistani Muslim ways. But his children, with an English mother and having been born and brought up in Britain, increasingly see themselves as British and start to reject their father’s rules on dress, food, religion, and living in general. 

East is East is a play by Ayub Khan-Din, first produced by Tamasha Theatre Company in co-production with the Royal Court and Birmingham REP. The play runs at the Birmingham REP between 4th – 25th September 2021. For tickets and more information visit www.birmingham-rep.co.uk

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Bollywood Lite Blogs Theatre

Tanya believes in miracles

I will be thankful to my friend who pushed me to go for the audition of ‘The Suitable Boy’ and initially after the audition I did not expect to get a selection call…Tanya speaks with Arundhuti Banerjee

Tanya Maniktala is a notable actress through her wonderful performance in The Suitable Boy. She grabbed eyeballs with her acting and beauty in Mira Nair’s web series “The Suitable Boy” and there has been no looking back. From being selected as one of the participants of BAFTA Breakthrough India to bagging roles in Santosh Sivan’s “Mumbaikar”, the upcoming OTT anthology “Feels Like Ishq” and the web series “Chutzpah”, Tanya Maniktala has a lot on her platter.

The actress, however, surprises you saying that she almost decided to give up acting at one point, after her debut show “Flames”.

“It feels surreal to me because I never anticipated anything to happen really. So, at this stage of my career, BAFTA Breakthrough India is happening and I am getting selected as one of the 10 participants where I will get a chance to interact with and be mentored by international experts — it is kind of too much for me to sync with! I feel fortunate and I think I believe in miracles more,” she told.

Tanya made her acting debut with the web series “Flames” when she was still in college, and after the release of the show she thought everyone would flood her with offers and she would become a Bollywood star.

“I am from Delhi, with no understanding of how the business of entertainment works. So, I thought doing one show would give me series of work, films etc. I was really naive. I went on giving audition and started facing rejection,” she recalled.

“That is when I started doubting myself and thought of giving up acting. I think for any budding actor or artiste, self-doubt could be a huge issue that could break all confidence and conviction. You feel like your dream is broken. People could be harsh on your face when they reject you in an audition and I am not complaining, but I am saying I was young, naive, still in college and not ready for it,” shared the actress.

For some time, she focused on studying, took a job as a copywriter in an ad agency and gave up on her dream to make it big in acting.

“I will be thankful to my friend who pushed me to go for the audition of ‘The Suitable Boy’ and initially after the audition I did not expect to get a selection call. Rather I geared up to go to Melbourne for higher studies. Fifteen days before I was to leave for Melbourne, I was told that Mira (Nair) di wants to take a final audition and she was coming to Delhi,” said Tanya.

“Eventually, I got the part and Mira di helped me build the confidence I lost due to all the rejection I faced before. She made me believe if I have faith in myself, if I have a dream and work on it, there is no way I would not achieve it. The only thing was, I would have to trust the process. The problem is we tend to give up in the process. You see, I almost gave up and took up a job and went off for higher study. But then, Mira di happened, a miracle happened,” she signed off.

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Interview Lite Blogs Theatre

‘Theatre is the most authentic way of learning acting’

Crime thriller series ‘Paatal Lok’ actor Ishwak Singh, who had quite a productive lockdown, says that creativity is the king in the OTT space. Calling 2020 challenging, he also said it was a remarkable year for him, as it brought him on the map…writes Siddhi Jain.

Singh stars in ‘Unpaused’, a Hindi anthology consisting of five short stories revolved around lives of people impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Excerpts from an IANSlife chat with Ishwak Singh:

You have a background in theatre. Tell us about your time and learnings on stage.

Theatre is a pretty widespread and diverse space but the kind of theatre I wanted to do was very, very realistic and minimalistic – which means there weren’t many sets or too much anything apart from the spotlight and the actor. To me, that was the ultimate training ground. My idea was to learn the craft, and I thought what could be a better space to learn than a play where it’s just the actor and spotlight.

To me, theatre is the most authentic way of learning acting. When I started out, I realised it would take a lot of time, because normally you enrol with a theatre group and it takes a good number of years before you get the part of a protagonist and you build a body of work and get known for it. It’s a slow and ongoing process which I wanted to do, it was a conscious choice and I really enjoyed it.

From an actor’s perspective, how promising would you say the OTT space is?

The OTT space is clearly a savior in that sense, for not just actors, filmmakers, writers, and creative people, but someone who just wants to do basic work and want to tell stories. It doesn’t have the dynamics of what every industry has, where creativity is pretty much at the centre. Creativity is the king for OTT, and that’s what makes it very interesting.

‘Unpaused’ draws from Covid-19 and the lockdown. What were your personal experiences in the lockdown?

During the lockdown, I was aware that this thing is going to go on for a while and I wasn’t ambitious at all about how to make my days productive initially. To me, it was about your sanity, getting past this thing. I got back to basics, did things I really enjoyed, read Shakespeare which I really like, watched good cinema, explored different forms of martial arts. I had been meaning to get back to books, plays and stories.

Well, I have to say it’s been a very very challenging, at times hurtful, at times very difficult year, but at the same time it’s been remarkable, that I can’t deny. It’s unfortunate to use this word for the year, but it did kind of bring me on the map. The biggest regret any artist has got the longest time is that he might have been known before this but I wasn’t known for the kind of skillset, work and acting I represent. After 2020, people get a sense of that, which is immensely satisfying.

Tell us about character in ‘Unpaused’ and how different is it from that in ‘Paatal Lok’?

Every character is very, very different. Anything that is written in a different time and place, if you see it as part of a story and what the story is all about, I think characters of the same profession (would be different). If I have to play a cop, it will be different from the cop I played in Paatal Lok. Here (in ‘Unpaused’) is the premise is different, the format is different, that was long-format, this is a short story. This is more felt, personal, internal, something that comes out of one’s personal experiences because it’s about mental health and hope.

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Bollywood Lite Blogs Theatre

Mithila’s First Love Is Theatre

Popular cinema and OTT actor Mithila Palkar, best known for Netflix’s ‘Little Things’ and 2018 movie ‘Karwaan’, says that theatre will always be her first love. Mithila had her beginnings with Marathi theatre, and feels close to it still.

“Theatre will always be my first love. Marathi theatre is something that I knew in my heart that I wanted to start with. Specifically Marathi because it is the language that I am most comfortable speaking in, and stage because that’s where I had the epiphany that I wanted to be an actor. Every time I am on stage, even today, I think every other joy is just unparalleled. This feeling is something inexplicable for me and theatre will always be very close to my heart. I guess that feeling of belonging keeps me close to theatre,” Mithila told IANSlife in an interview.

Her last play, ‘Dekh Behen’, was produced by Akvarious Productions, directed by Shikha Talsania and Prerna Chawla and written by Tahira Nath and Dilshad Edibam Khurana. The actor is elated that the shows of the play are still running. “The shows of this play are ongoing and the minute theatres open up, I am pretty sure we all will be rushing back to theatre to perform on it. So, I am still in touch with theatre very much, so thanks to ‘Dekh Behen’.”

How different is acting on the stage? Does it refine her as an actor?

“It definitely is very different. I always said that as an actor, acting on stage and acting on camera are two different things. What you emote as a theatre actor, it is very loud and out there and it demands a direct reflection from the audience whereas acting in front of a camera it’s very to yourself and contained. It is way more challenging to be on stage because it is not the same to be acting on camera and it does not necessarily make you a better actor on camera if you are a better actor on stage and vice versa.

“This is because they are both different techniques and both these techniques need to be mastered on their own. So, yes definitely theatre does refine you as an actor and as I have always said — theatre is a very raw medium of entertainment,” she said.

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