The Hyderabad Deccan English Daily

Kolkata gets taste of forum theatre

Kolkata, June 21 (IBNS): Kolkata got a taste of forum theatre in proscenium setup popular as theatre group Jana Sanskriti's new play Gaanyer Swapno (A Village Dream) made its debut at the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) here on Wednesday.

The play was translated and adapted by founder-director of the organisation, Dr Sanjoy Ganguli, from an African play by Mesgun Zerai.

The play, based on an African mythology, raised issues that are relevant in the modern day context.

The play has been co-directed by Ganguli along with Prof Ralph Yarrow, Emeritus Professor, University of East Anglia, UK.

Referring to the novelty of the theatre, Ganguli said, "Proscenium theatre has seen actors coming on stage from the spectators. But in forum theatre, a form of interactive theatre, the real spectators become actors by participating in the play that does away with the stage, curtains or other barriers between actors and spectators.

"Hence, they are spectactors. With the staging of Gaanyer Swapno, for the first time, a proscenium theatre has witnessed the essence of forum theatre."

Ganguli has extensively travelled across the globe and written about forum theatre that was created and popularised by the innovative and influential practitioner Late Augusto Boal of Brazil as a part of what he called his Theatre of the Oppressed.

The story poses pertinent questions related to age-old patriarchy that is very much ingrained in the existing society worldwide. The play is set in a small village where women toil and suffer while the men lead an easy life.

When these women ask the reason for this discrimination they were told that they were sinners and that they were paying for their sins.

Hearing this all the women leave the village and go up the hill at night. In the morning when the men find that the village has no women they decide to enquire.

What happens next is a series of interactions between the men and women through which they come to understand that the foundation for a just society is a balance of power between the two sexes.

The performance was interrupted in crucial places to pose questions to the audience and invited response from them as the forum theatre demands.

Ganguli explained the reason for choosing this African play, "Among several reasons, one is that we tend to look towards the developed West for our subjects, so much so that we neglect the existence of the other world. So I chose this play from a small African state of Eritrea for the first time in Kolkata."

Jana Sanskriti was started as an experiment 25 years ago by a group of dedicated people who saw theatre as an effective means of social change.

"Rather than use theatre to deliver development messages and services we use theatre to establish a dialogue in the society," Ganguli said. "Today the greatest violation of Human Rights is the right to think. Through our theatre we create a democratic space and allow dialogue to begin. This is what prevents one to follow anything blindly - be it an ideology or a person and this is empowerment."

Jana Sanskriti's work with the marginalized communities has become subject for theses and dissertations in Harvard, Cornell, Chicago, Cambridge Universities.



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