Published on 10 October, 2014 in Mint
The second edition of the Going Solo theatre festival will have three plays on disability and everyday struggles
Solo theatre is believed to have emerged from the ancient tradition of tribal storytelling, where bards would travel from one land to another singing folk tales. Traces of the art form can be found in India, too—in rural religious performances, puppet plays and classical dance forms. This was hundreds of years ago, but solo theatre continues to exist in different formats across the world. One of its more recent adoptions has been in the form of the Going Solo festival, started last year by Sanjoy Roy, managing director, Teamwork Arts, which also organizes the Jaipur Literature Festival and Friends of Music events. “I had seen excellent theatre from across the world at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The performances were inspiring and the scripts explored issues from a unique point of view. And solo performances, in particular, were the most difficult to execute. I wanted to bring the global cultural festival to India. This year our theme deals with the challenges and disabilities of day-to-day struggles,” says Roy.
Going Solo 2014 will have three plays performed by artists specializing in solo theatre from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The festival, which began in Delhi on 9 October, will travel to four cities. The first of three performances is Shylock, written by Gareth Armstrong and performed by Olivier Award winning producer, actor, director and writer Guy Masterson. The play explores the tragic and unbelievable life of Shakespeare’s most famous Jewish character. Masterson, who has worked in over 150 shows, says: “The play extracts the character of Shylock out of The Merchant Of Venice and puts him and his actions into context from the origin of the plot to the origin of Jewish persecution. When you understand Shylock’s background, it becomes easier to comprehend the complexity of his situation in the play and his actions. Looking at him in 2014 is very different to how he was viewed—as a comic villain—in 1605 when the play was first seen. It could be that Shakespeare actually wrote the first anti-Semitic play, even though it would not have been looked at like that at the time.”
Rahila Gupta’s autobiographical play Don’t Wake Me: The Ballad Of Nihal Armstrong, the second solo play at the festival, will be performed by British stage and television actor Jaye Griffiths. Gupta’s story is about her struggles as the mother of a disabled child and the battles she fights for his rights. “My son was starved of oxygen at birth which caused brain damage, also known as cerebral palsy. He was written off by the hospital, the school, friends, family and society. Don’t Wake Me is about disability and discrimination, a conversation that really needs to happen in India,” she says.
The last in the series of solo theatrical performances at Going Solo is If These Spasms Could Speak by Scottish actor, writer and director Robert Softley, who recounts his own story on stage. Softley, who has been a disability rights activist and supporter of the arts for over a decade, says: “Solo shows, particularly the ones using direct address, are very effective in engaging the audience. I hope to get audiences to engage with real people and real situations by putting aside the idea of ‘acting’ or ‘pretending’.”
The Going Solo International Theatre Festival 2014 is on in New Delhi till 11 October at Ficci Auditorium and India Habitat Centre’s Stein Auditorium; in Kolkata from 13-15 October, at Gyan Manch; in Bangalore from 16-18 October, at Ranga Shankara; and in Mumbai from 20-22 October, at the National Centre for the Performing Arts and St Andrews Auditorium. Timings vary. Tickets, priced Rs.300-750, are available at in.bookmyshow.com. For details, visit http://www.goingsolo.in