Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Theatre of protest

 Probir Guha
I do theatre for a political reason.  Nothing is beyond politics. We live in a fully feudal and colonial value loaded society with their vices. It needs to be changed. I dream to change it. So, I use theatre as a weapon to destroy and to re-create my society. I don’t do theatre just for art sake. It has a certain purpose. My theatre is my one of my daily necessity like hunger ,sleep, using toilet, sex. It is true .. has to be true. I love to introduce myself as a theatre activist, rather than an artist. I direct plays to lead the activism in a particular way where acting does not exist but issues come alive within audience. It is a theatre of protest. I belive the theatre to be a communal project, a celebration. It is a form of expression that would become more and more of a necessity as society becomes increasingly mechanical and organized. Theatre for me is a way to get people to communicate with each other, to destroy the walls which make separate. I don’t want to produce classics. But , I have full respect if any person do it. I feel myself responsible for my society and time.  As a politically conscious theatre activist, I want to react on my surroundings... my present time. My group members represent an amalgam of diverse socio-economical groups of our society including the youth from lower strata and impoverished lower middle class families. Thus the theatre presented by my group, Alternative Living Theatre... is shaped by struggle and sufferings of common man especially the down trodden people of present day urban society. I do theatre for the marginal, who lives in villages, slums, footpaths, and on all odd places...I also consider, Women, Elderly persons and Children are also in marginal community. I don’t want to entertain my audience .. rather I want to put them in such a situation, where they would be forced to think  about their surroundings...  If you have a scar, I don’t want to put healing ointment on it, rather I would rub it with salt, so that it burns you for longer duration.. I don’t do so called entertaining  theatre. So, I don’t copy film in my theatre. Film and Theatre are  two different form of communication. Both are very different in their approach.  Both form has their own advantage and limitations. To overcome the limitations are the challenges for the particular form. Theatre should not compromise with cinema. It does not need to copy cinema to express itself. Theatre has its own language to communicate. Cinema is not a live performance. It's all illusions. But theatre is live performance. In theatre, conceptually the design, text, acting style, has to be totally different than cinema. The most important condition of theatre is that performers and spectators are physically present in the same time and place. It is essential that the audience to be made to focus on the real world. It is also important to create a sense of community among the spectators who then would have the potential for collective actions. Such a community could be dreamed if the spectators are physically present in front of actors. And here lies the power of theatre in Third World countries.
We are in need of Third Theatre what was first told by Eugenio Barba in early 70.  In 1960's and early 70's, the political movement gave birth of a new theatre movement outside the dominant theatre culture. Initially, the new theatre was the expression of socio-political thinkers. These activists were somehow related with various movements like: civil rights, free democracy, freedom of political prisoners, freedom of voice,anti Vietnam war, naxalite movements etc.
These alternative theatre people challenged the existing politics, aesthetics, working styles, direction methodology and their techniques. They came out from the proscenium frame and from their set ideas. They started approaching towards a new group of people, intellectuals, artists, critics, political radicals, workers, farmers, dalits, women etc. They started exploring a new methodology, new aesthetic principles which can be used to express their new conceptions. Though it started in Europe, but the strong waves of this movement caused a tsunami every where even in our country.
When an alternative culture and life-style began to take shape in early 70's following the towering personality, Badal Sircar,in our country, another kind of theatre practioner started coming into theatre arena. It was a grass-root theatre movement in that some of the participants did not come from the theatrical profession but were drawn to theatre as a means of expression for their socio political commitment.
Those groups started thinking of new theatre training because the objectives, techniques and styles required a different skills which are not taught in any theatre schools or an theatre groups in the country. It was providing a different social experiences which were not available in mainstream theatre. People came here from different strata. They were from students, teachers, people from different classes and social backgrounds, those with artistic commitments and political activists.

Two kind of energy was very dominant in this new theatre. The moral energy of social causes and the intention towards an artistic exploration...two perspectives.. which gave birth of a different human experiences. One perspective, who looked outward, exploring human beings in society, analyzing social institutions. The other perspective was inward looking and involved a consideration of how we perceive, feel, think, the structure of thought, the nature of consciousness, the self... in relation to art.
Unlike the mainstream theatre, they are not concerned with so-called entertainment. They don’t consider THEATRE as a product to be sold. Instead, they are concerned to improve the quality of life for themselves as well as for the audiences.
The traditional theatre spaces are economically unfeasible and also artistically unsuitable for their theatre approach. It is too uncomfortable for their expression. It divides actors and audience. This theatre demands a different space for their activities. Where they can arrange their acting space and sitting arrangements for their audiences as per their choice. It is on the same level. Audience are not in dark portion. both group can see each other. And thus both the group confront each other directly. Even the actor can touch, disturb the audience and also some time the audience also take part in the play what is almost impossible in mainstream proscenium theatre. Here the performer - audience relationship  develops a community spirit. A theatrical celibration can take place anywhere: in a small room, out of doors, in a garage, on a roof, under a tree, on foot path, in park, on boat, in a cowshed ..everywhere .. under artificial light, under street light, under candle light, moon light even under sunlight.
However, the most important changes are the development of an autonomous creative method, a shift from the dominance of verbal words to a physical, visual emphasis. Audience started viewing theatre instead of listening only. An autonomous method has been developed to make a new play. It is not that a playwright is writing a play in isolation and artists are staging it in a different time. The new method of creation involves a single process where in the same activists develop the work from initial conception to finished play. They started developing a different play where the characters are not important but the issues are very important. Issues are not created to created to establish the character rather characters are being created for the purpose of issues. That’s why, after the play audience don't clap for the actors but, they discuss on the raised points, even they started debating with actors. Some time they divide in groups and start a verbal fight. These plays are mostly developed with less text and very abstract, very lyrical, very precise. It never follows any prescribed rule of writing text. For them theatre is not literary form of expression. They belive in the process not in product.
A visual focus became an alternative to 'dependence on words' as a medium of expression. a distrust started developing against this practice. The distrusts because of the end they are being used by the politicians and advertising. Also, the playwright tries to fulfill their artistic skills in writing which may not be important for communication. They are also tended to make it a long play according to the demand of the market which may not be necessary to communicate the premise. It is realized that this new concepts can not be expressed by words only. It demands physicalisation. It demands a new body language. As the activists are not academically educated enough and not a trend actor, they felt freedom by discovering a newer language of their own expression. Their feelings of inferiority transformed in a positive way. They started contributing a different language to theatre.  Painters and artists who were getting  involved in theatre were naturally inclined towards this visual means, and other theatre artists experimented with non-verbal sounds, with placing focus upon the performer's body, and with a variety of non-verbal means.
 If any person want to create something new and different, the person have to discard the older way and to work very hard for a newer path. It demands lot of experimentation. And it is a never ending process. The important work is to demystify the word 'theatre'. In alternative approach, an artist should try to adopt a spectator-performance relationship similar to that in visual arts. Audience in round or gallery do not loose consciousness of themselves or of the time and place of the exhibition. While viewing a painting they remain aware that the illusion presented in fact an illusion. and they are also conscious of the means used to create it. similarly, in the work of most alternative theatre, the audience is aware of both the illusion and the performers. It helps to demystify THEATRE.
The activists of alternative theatre set out to explore our traditions, rituals. Now they understand that human beings  thinking process, body language are all conditioned. It is conditioned by our feudal and colonial value loaded society’s vices. We need to decondition ourselves with the help of our traditional culture. The next is Re-conditioning, where we need to transform our learning from tradition into a modern concept. It is like a lotus  we see on the surface of water. but it has a steam, which goes through the water to mud. It collects its ingredients for life from the mud. And its steam helps to metabolize it into energy and thus the lotus blooms on the surface of water. The task is very hard. they need to make theatre as true as hunger. When theatre is true, there is an actual moment of truth, and when it happens there is a change of perception. Everyone of us, most of the time, is blind to reality. But when the life is perceived more intensely, then there is real food for soul. When it happens, there is a change of perception and what is received is for life. Theatre gives that chance to see life more closely and clearly.
The activist must realize that the glow of media is not for them. Even economically they may suffer. They are just few in numbers. But they must feel proud because they are the pioneer of the changing society. And they have taken it as voluntary task. It is the beginning and they have to walk a long way against the market system. Their task is to give a voice to voiceless but artistically.
The immediate task is to find or invent more expressive, inexpensive and simple ways to articulate what they feel about the changing times, about society, about perceiving, feeling and knowing. They must keep working on exploring new materials, develop new techniques, and to create newer forms to hold and express the concepts they consider important for the TIME.

1 comment:

  1. This is the idea and way from where we achieve many more social duties, awareness and reform our disgusting society.......