All of Bangalore appears to have become a stage, and men and women are busy making their exits and entrances in a host of interesting venues, which in turn, play many parts themselves.
There’s a surge in theatre activity in the city with a motley fare that to satisfy theatre-goers, though one doubts that anyone could afford to be choosy, considering that pickings had been slim for a long time.
Stand-up comedy that has you rolling on the floor, theatre with a cause that makes you ponder, plays stretching for 2 hours or those that are just 10 minutes long – we are getting spoilt for choice.
Bangalore has very few conventional auditoriums – along with the violin-shaped Chowdaiah hall, there is the charming Ranga Shankara, the Alliance Francaise, a couple of state-owned smaller places and the brand new Jagriti. These venues do not suffice for a variety of reasons; Chowdaiah is too big and expensive, Ranga Shankara has a long waiting line and so on.
The solution for performers has been to take theatre out of the box and move it to venues like lounges and nightclubs. Opus, Bacchus, Kyra and B flat are some of the popular entertainment spots that offer a sprinkling of theatre along with a regular line-up of music gigs.
I was delighted to accept an invitation to join the cast of ‘Together in the City’ from Anita Mithra, founder of the brand new theatre initiative ‘Tortilla’. We debuted with five short plays (10 -15 minutes) staging a show each at Opus and Bacchus recently and we are all set for another show at B flat. These are performed with minimal props and simple costumes.
Mithra feels the time is right for theatre that is “Intimate, inclusive, entertaining, fresh, innovative, and most of all accessible”. Such experimental theatre is exactly what both Meghna Vakada, of Bacchus (Madira in an earlier avatar that I had helped launch) and Aarti Rao of B flat have been waiting for. Vakada says, “Spaces like ours offer an intimate interactive experience. While the clubbing crowd comes in through the week for music and dance, we attract a wider profile of customers for stand-up comedy and theatre”.
While B flat’s raison d’etre is music, Rao, a popular Jazz singer herself, is all for the use of the space for experimental theatre. “Bangalore has a cultural sensibility superior to that of other cities; this comes from exposure to global influence and a diverse musical education that makes people open to theatre too”, she all but croons.
My friend Ashish Sen’s ‘Play On!’ recently got a specialty cancer hospital to help them stage ‘Shadow Box’ in an attempt to sensitise the public and demystify the big C. On the face of it, the subject of the play is not typical supper theatre fare, yet, says Sen, “Judging by the reaction (at the five star hotels where the show was offered along with dinner), it strengthens the case of good theatre for good causes impacting the audience”.
Its not easy yet to match Bombay where plays have a run of 30 to 40 performances; Bangalore does not sustain more than three to four shows and the costs of production remain daunting.
At myriad venues, there’s hope of sustaining the surge in Bangalore’s theatre scene. Far more groups than ever before perform a lot more plays and there’s a lot more original writing too, all of which make for an exciting theatre environment.
This is a column that I wrote for oherald0. the original article is on page 8: http://www.epaperoheraldo.in/epapermain.aspx