Akshara puts theatre on trial: Art festival celebrates courtroom drama | art and culture | Hindustan Times
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Akshara puts theatre on trial: Art festival celebrates courtroom drama

A two-week festival of courtroom dramas presents fresh productions and old classics in a compelling genre of theatre that has always generated audience interest across the world.

art and culture Updated: May 07, 2016 11:51 IST
Poulomi Banerjee
Order! Order! Order

The Akshara Repertory rehearses for the courtroom drama festival.(Snjeev Verma/ Hindustan Times)

While lawyers and activists locked horns over the relevance of Section 377 approximately two years back, a group of actors in the national capital chose the medium they knew best to lend their support to the cause – theatre. The Importance of 377 – The Trials of Oscar Wilde, condensed two of the three trials that playwright Oscar Wilde faced on charges of being a homosexual. The choice of the subject showed how Section 377 was a dated law, with little relevance and resonance in today’s world. And the use of the courtroom drama format helped raise and answer some of the real questions being asked in the debate.

A scene from 12 Angry Men (Photo courtesy: Akshara Theatre)

“Many of our plays have used courtroom scenes and they have always gone down well with the audience,” says technical director, Akshara Theatre, Anasuya Vaidya. “Perhaps it was this that gave us the idea of organising a courtroom drama festival. I am not sure when we first thought of it, but we are all unanimous in agreeing that it was something that needed to be done.”

A scene from Manohar Kahaniya - The Suzette Jordan Story (Photo Courtesy: Akshara Theatre)

Titled Order! Order! Order! A festival of courtroom drama, the two-week event starting this Sunday will see the Akshara Theatre Repertory and other groups perform a selection of five courtroom dramas over the weekends and also include dramatised book readings, play readings, discussions and talks. “Some of the plays are based on original court cases. Many social and political issues come up in courts. It is a good way to condense the court proceedings and present it in a dramatised format,” says Vaidya.

Over the years Akshara has staged some courtroom dramas, such as the Hindi adaptation of Reginald Rose’s 12 Angry Men, or had courtroom scenes in plays such as Karma. “But though this is a strong genre in global theatre, and immensely popular with the audience, in India, we haven’t had too many of them,” says Vaidya.

Khamosh Adalat Jari Hai, based on Vijay Tendulkar’s Marathi original, Shantata! Court Chalu Aahe and Court Martial, a play by Swadesh Deepak, are two old favourites.

A scene from An English Prison - The Trial of Suresh Vaidya (Photo Courtesy: Akshara Theatre)

Vaidya adds, “In general we have very little original stage content. About 60 per cent of our productions are translations. There is huge scope for original content in all genres of theatre, including this one.” With a set of fresh and original productions, Order!Order!Order makes a start in filling that gap.

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