What can give you edge-of-the-seat thrills, non-stop histrionics and instant catharsis in a public place? Keep your applause handy for quickie theatre, or 10-minute plays that are the theatrical equivalent of T20 cricket.
Purists may balk at it, but audiences are lapping up a format where they don’t have to sit through a play that may plod on for two hours, says M Sayeed Alam of Pierrot’s Theatre Group. A 10-minute play grips you by the scruff of the neck at the start and doesn’t let go right till the final second, says seasoned playwright and director Sohaila Kapur. In the last few years, the quick-format theatre movement has gained acceptability, particularly since Short and Sweet, the world’s largest 10-minute festival, forayed into India after Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and New Zealand.
This year, a special feature of the festival will be street theatre platform performances, adds Kapur, who is the executive producer for Short and Sweet 2013. “By being a generator of content, the 10-minute format has also helped unearth new talent in writing,” adds Arvind Gaur of Asmita, whose Interfaith was the finalist in 2010. Gaur isn’t exaggerating. Ask Aishwarya Jha-Mathur, 22, whose creative spark was ignited at the Delhi edition of the festival two years ago. “I went on to write a play that was staged in eight cities around the world,” says the management and law graduate from the University of London.
Mathur says that the challenge before a playwright scripting a 10-minute play is to create an impact in just 10 minutes, and at the same time ensure that the characters are well fleshed out. In Lyra, which was a hit with the audiences in 2012, Mathur lent a feminist twist to Sita’s agni- pariksha. “On the lines of the Ramayana, the queen is abducted by a demon king and is rescued. But when allegations are levelled against her, she walks out.”
Instant Drama: Scenes from The Sum of Your Experiences directed by Ishwar Shunya (right) and Lyra (top) directed by Aishwarya Jha-Mathur
Going for the jugular
Some of the finest practitioners from Delhi’s vibrant theatre scene have featured in the festival. The Sum of Your Experiences, directed by Ishwar Shunya (best director in 2010 and 2011), is about an office worker trying to catch a taxi, who comes upon a man standing in a corner. “What follows is a supernatural encounter where a dark figure questions the darkest secrets of the protagonist,” says Varoon P Anand, who won the best actor honour for the play in 2012.
In the 10-minute format, wit and satire often come in handy. Between Romeo and Juliet, for instance, directed by Ashish Paliwal, pokes fun at a rehearsal session for the classic Shakespeare tragedy. In the production, winner of the best script award in 2012, Neel Chaudhuri plays a director who drives the actress playing Juliet (enacted by Krittika Bhattacharjee), to despair. Its director Ashish Paliwal, 38, says 10-minute plays are whetting people’s appetite for the larger format.
In the satire 2922: The Ballad of Vedant Saafi, protagonist Vedant Saafi, the boy with the shiniest white teeth in the world, becomes the Sachin Tendulkar of the Tooth Athletics, till his rival Plaque frames him for taking performance-enhancing drugs. “When it was being written, the lid had just blown off the Lance Armstrong doping controversy,” says director Pranay Manchanda.
When the actor is under the arclights in the T20 of theatre, no amount of spot fixing can help him. “Whether it is T20 or test matches, if a player is technically correct, he can hit every bouncer for a boundary,” says Manchanda.
The curtain raiser to this year’s edition of Short and Sweet, the biggest 10-minute theatre festival in the world, takes place on July 13 when the best plays from 2012 will be staged. The next stage involves workshops in writing, direction and acting between July 19 and 21, followed by a performance at Akshara Theatre. Then interested groups or individuals can send their scripts for consideration for this year’s festival, says Prashant Sehgal, the festival director.
From HT Brunch, June 16
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