If you think theatre is expensive and can only be enjoyed in auditoriums with proscenium productions, elaborate sets and costumes than here is an alternative. You can enjoy it right in the space of your living room writes Salma Rehman
No decorous auditorium, no opulent sets, no elaborates costumes….but the stage is set and the show is on. A new form of experimental ‘chamber theatre’ has found its own space – right in your living room.
Delhi-based Atelier Theatre Group has conceptualized chamber theatre with the idea of making the art form more engaging and accessible for the people. Unlike proscenium (auditorium) performances, chamber theatre is held in non-conforming spaces like drawing rooms in people’s homes.
“We have been doing proscenium theatre since inception but this form is indeed more flexible and interactive,” says Kuljeet Singh, creative director of Atelier. “Unlike the well-known form of theatre the performances could be experience in mundane spaces as well.”
Performances are held without any props, pre-arranged sets or costumes. People invite the artists and arrange for the performances in their homes. The audiences are family members and their neighbors.
The performances cover a variety of topics from social concerns and politics to mythology and comedy. The acts highlight issues affecting the people but which are rarely discussed in public. “We even attempt farcical comedies but with the core meaning of the issue retained and projected through the act,” says Kuljeet.
The audience can select pre-structured acts offered by the theatre group or they suggest a theme. Where proscenium performances are expensive to hold, chamber theatre does not require huge investments thus making theatre more affordable. Customers only have to arrange for the travelling expenses of the artists.
Atelier charges a maximum of Rs.1500 for every performance.
The unique part of chamber theatre is the post-performance discussion where the performers interact with their audience over tea and snacks.
“Although we have a part of audiences who might just have an incidental understanding of theatre but they interestingly respond during the discussion and also suggest us on improvising the whole act,” says Sadiq Faisal, an actor with Atelier.
Jasjit Mansingh, a resident of Haus Khas and new to theatre says, “I hardly went to the auditoriums for the performances. But when I heard about this innovative form of theatre, I was excited and invited the Atelier group to my place.
“I also invited few of my friends and neighbors and they were quite impressed by the way social issues were highlighted through the performances.”
Faisal says the response from the audiences was extremely encouraging.
“We have received invitations from more people and they are willing to attend the performances at the auditoriums as well.”
The group plans to extend them to the coffee houses and terraces. “We plan to organize a three-day festival in January next year where we will be conducting performances in the space available on terraces,” says Kuljeet, adding that it will provide more flexibility for the artists to perform.
The group plans to encourage the practices of community theatre inspired by the concept of Rang Ghar -a kind of royal amphitheatre used for sports and recreation during the reign of Ahom kings in Assam.
Atelier hopes to establish small institutes in residential colonies from where they will conduct theatre performances and workshops.
Renowned theatre director, Arvind Gaur, sees chamber theatre as another form of expression. “Performances in chamber spaces like drawing rooms, class rooms and terraces are prevalent in other countries across the world but as far as the Indian context is concerned, it is still evolving,” he says.
Indeed chamber theatre has defined the boundaries of popular theatre. The idea of closing the gap between the artists and audiences is appealing.
But Kuljeet says, “The idea is not to replace the conventional form of theatre but to expand it by making it more synergistic.”
Some facts about Indian Theatre
*Sanskrit theatre is the earliest form of the Indian theatre, which dates back to the 1st century.
*Sanskrit theatre was performed in temple grounds by priests specially trained in traditional dance, music, and recitation.
*Kutiyattam from Kerala is the only surviving specimen of the ancient Sanskrit theatre and has been recognised by UNESCO as a Human Heritage Art.It is performed by "Chakyars" (a sub caste of Kerala Hindus) and “Nangyars" (women of Nambiar caste).
*Soorpanakhangam Koodiyattam and Jatayuvadham Koodiyattam based on the sequences mentioned in the epic Ramayana, are two popular Koodiyattams.
Salma Rehman hails from the city of Dehradun. She works as a freelancer and is currently pursuing MA in Convergent Journalism at AJK Mass communication Research Centre in Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. She has a keen interest in covering environmental issues along with working on assignments related to art, culture and travel. She has a taste for photography, videography, cooking and travelling.