A gentle breeze drafted through the park minutes before the protagonist assumed his position on stage, serving almost as an unscripted cue for the audience to descend to silence.
Tucked away in a Bandra bylane is this little known, little utilised recreational garden that has for years been maintained by Hindustan Unilever Ltd. The park, not known to or unheeded by many who have spent a lifetime in the suburb, is the surprising setting for the slew of theatrical performances lined up during the Celebrate Bandra Festival in partnership with the Hindustan Times.
As the 200-odd guests trickled in for Bandra’s first Theatre in the Park experience, it was evident that the venue, a justly exploited secret, would lend itself beautifully to theatre. Experimenting with venues, said festival director Neale Murray, was a means to innovate and further encourage community involvement. “It’s a magical setting; we hope you appreciate the pains taken to bring theatre to such a venue,” said Murray, referring to the elaborate stage, lights and sets erected on one end of this elevated stretch of green.
Nadir Khan, the director of the inaugural play, Some Girls, was enthused with the unique setting. “Theatre outdoors isn’t uncommon in the city given that Horniman Circle Garden is an old setting for performances, but this space I never knew existed. It is quiet and charming,” he said.
The play, produced by Quasar Theatre Productions, told humorously and poignantly the story of a man on the verge of getting married, who feels the need, before settling down, to apologise to his past girlfriends. “My school is a few blocks away from the park. Not once were we exposed to it; we always assumed it was off limits for the public,” said Carla Pinto (28), an academician.
For playwright Akarsh Khurana, whose Afsaneh: Bai Se Biscope Tak will be staged on November 22, the setting was reason to celebrate. “Afsaneh premiered at Horniman Circle Garden at the Kala Ghoda Festival. It’s a dance drama that works beautifully in the outdoors. It would be great to have more such valuable venues employed for performances,” Khurana said.